Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity: “Don’t Be Daunted. Just Do Your Job”


If you really want to be a writer then just do it. Just write. Don’t complain you’re running out of ideas. Don’t moan you’re always disturbed by noise around you. Don’t find any other excuse to validate your being slack in reinforcing self-discipline. Don’t ever feel intimidated by a fear phantom whispering that you’ll lose in the middle of the journey or neglected by the rest of the world after all the toil. Keep on moving forward.

That is the core message I was trying to extract from Elizabeth Gilbert’s speech at TED in February 2009. She is the heroine I look up to in becoming a writer.

 I love books. I’ve longed for becoming a writer yet up to this very second feel like I’m a failure. Yes, I’ve been cognizant of languages for years academically but still I am not a published writer (with the self-publish online platform and a site I write at as exceptions). Not yet, on paper, on print.

So what’s my problem? Does it have to do with my introverted personality? Perhaps. But then I read, a number of published, widely acknowledged authors too are introverted. Nothing is wrong with being an introvert but what is wrong is when it holds me back with my, I hope, lifetime pursuit: writing.

As I look back and find where I am at the moment, I come to realize I actually am on the right track. I am not there just yet but only to see I’m now heading to the right direction is too good to be true. I am now in fact making a living with my linguistic skills. I write. I translate. And as a professional, I get paid for what I do. I definitely wish to earn more and more but that’s just another story of greed and ambition. I want that of course. A great deal of wealth. But I want myself to deserve the perks. I ought to earn it. Because that’s the essence of being a human. Strive, fall, or succeed, and learn from whatever lessons this life has to offer.

Back to Gilbert inspirational speech at TED, I suppose the author made 2 critical, worth noting points anyone can learn writing wise. First, one should never be afraid to start because of failure risks. And second, one must never be intimidated by success. That is all. That’s what any human has to deal with every single day, isn’t that? If you’re nothing, you want to be someone. And after reaching the peak, you’ll wonder, “What’s next? Am I going to fall down right after this, soon or later?” The fear of being in the extreme state of adversity is overwhelming. Being in nadir is too terrifying an idea. The lowest point of anything which may trap you for good, sucking you deeper for sure just like quicksand.

[…] I happen to remember that over 20 years ago, when I first started telling people – when I was a teenager – that I wanted to be a writer, I was met with this kind of, sort of fear-based reaction. And people would say,”Aren’t you afraid you’re never going to have any success? Aren’t you afraid that you’re going to work your whole life at this craft and nothing’s ever going to come of it and you’re going to die on a scrap heap of broken dreams with your mouth filled with bitter ash of failure? […]

Gilbert intelligently answered all the questions directed towards her and said with that wise tone of an aspiring philosopher, “Yes, I’m afraid of all those things. And I have always been. And I’m afraid of many, many more things besides that people can’t even guess at.”

She then shifted to the discussion of the evolution of human thoughts on creativity. The blonde 40-year-old lady quickly summarized the change of perspectives in seeing creativity from ancient Greece and ancient Rome, who thought creative works are the works of daemons helping artists work, to Renaissance school of thought stating human beings as the axis of the universe.

And she sided Renaissance, I guess at this point. As a writer, Gilbert admitted having routines. She had to “get up at the same time every day and sweat and labor and barrel through it really awkwardly”, as she put it.

Afterwards she talked about how musician Tom Waits could maintain the creative process and the quality of his works without being dictated by the so-called inspiration sent by heaven to mortals, including artists. I love how Waits handled the musical ‘revelation’ he without warning received as driving down the street. “Do I look like I can write down a song right now? If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment when I can take care of you. Otherwise, go bother somebody else today,” Gilbert was retelling what she heard during the interview with the musician.

As approaching the end of the speech, Gilbert threw another analogy. This time was a story of an indistinct North African dancer centuries ago. He would actually become transcendent very rarely while dancing and one night he danced like he had been lit with divinity from all possible directions by the Almighty. And she elaborated:

And when this happened, back then, people knew it for what it was, you know, they called it by its name. they would put their hands together and they would start to chant,”Allah, Allah, Allah, God, God, God.”

As a moslem by upbringing, I’m of course stunned upon reading her words. Allah? Did I read it right? And yes, I did. It was later explained that piece of historical notes stated “when the Moors invaded southern Spain, they took this custom with them and the pronunciation changed over the centuries from “Allah, Allah, Allah,” to “Ole, Ole, Ole” which you still hear in bullfights and in flamenco dances.”

In Spain, she added, when a performer has done something impossible and magic,Allah, ole, ole, Allah, magnificent, bravo,” incomprehensible, there it is  — a glimpse of God. “Which is great, because we need that,” Gilbert argued. At this point she turned spiritual.

Lastly, the African dancer story ended with him becoming a mortal again, not a glimpse of God, by the next morning. This time no transcendent aura whatsoever found in his soul. The magic turned out to be a loan from the Unknown source. And this magic is to pass on to someone else when the dancer’s time was over.


“”Ole!” to you, nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up”- Elizabeth Gilbert





This is How Prophet Mohammed Consumed Honey

Image via Wikipedia

Even Mohammed, our last Prophet, is known for his great care of health. He strongly believes in the idea that the physical body is what Allah has given us for a temporary period of time.

As he woke up, the Prophet would grab a bottle of honey. “The way Propet Mohammed consumed honey might be different from ours. Most of us drink honey after being mixed with water,” stated Dr. Brilianto M. Soenarwo , an author of healthy living a la Mohammed.

As it turns out, Mohammed consumed honey in a different way. The health practitioner usually called Toni explained that the Prophet would take honey and  let it melt in his mouth as it is mingled with saliva.  The author of various health related books explained that honey contains fructose, and fructose needs saliva in order to be digested more perfectly by the stomach.

Also, he states that consuming pure honey every morning can help us prevent stomach ulcer. “In the morning, the stomach is empty because the Prophet usually ate a light dinner around 8 pm. Honey can coat the ulcer walls so his stomach stayed healthy,” he added.

The prophet would eat a light meal at night. He would eat a bigger portion of meal in the afternoon.(http://www.republika.co.id/berita/gaya-hidup/info-sehat/11/12/31/lx27ak-begini-cara-nabi-muhammad-menyantap-madu)

Food Combining in The Holy Quran

Fruits of Shinseiki pear on tree
The rule of the thumb is EAT FRUITS BEFORE ANYTHING. (Image via Wikipedia)

What you are about to read below is a piece of text I translated from a friend of mine. This is relevant if you’re a moslem but still think that food combining is not so convincing and groundless to apply to your daily eating pattern.

So it looks like The Holy Quran implies a food combining principle in the two verses below.

وَفَاكِهَةٍ مِّمَّا يَتَخَيَّرُونَ وَلَحْمِ طَيْرٍ مِّمَّا يَشْتَهُونَ

” And with fruits, any that they may select, and the flesh of fowls, any that they may desire.” (Al Waqiah: 20-21)

In the verses above, Allah SWT explains about the food of th paradise inhabitants. What is interesting here? As anyone can read, the word ‘fruits’ is mentioned first and ‘flesh’  latter. Why so?

This seems to be the most plausible answer. While most people in the Western hemisphere eat fruits before any other foods and have fruits as their breakfast, we Indonesians are not familiar to this eating habit. The prevalent myth in Indonesia is that fruits are supposed to be consumed after eating heavier meals or eaten later close to noon or afternoon. Then we must analyze why Allah SWT mentions fruits before meat? Does it have anything to do with the Western people eating habit. The question remains unanswered.

Fruits are digested in the stomach faster than any other types of foods. It generally takes 15-20 minutes for the system to fully digest fruits (with bananas as an exception, taking around 45 minutes). The glucose in fruits instantly provides us energy needed to work in the morning. It generally takes 2 hours for carbohydrates (rice, corn, noodles, bread) to be processed provided that they’re eaten alone (without any other foods). As for animal protein (chicken, four-legged animal meat, fish, egg) provided that they’re eaten alone is usually digested by the stomach within around 3-4 hours. Typical Indonesian way of eating – which involves eating animal protein and carbohydrate at the same time –  burdens the stomach because IT TAKES MORE THAN 6 HOURS TO COMPLETELY DIGEST THIS CARBO-PROTEIN COMBO. So you can imagine: before your stomach can’t get enough rest, you eat more, and on and on…BAM!

We also need to pay attention to the CIRCADIAN CYLE of  body. In a nutshell, the body is cleaning itself from the metabolism residue. It’s the “leftover” in large intestine that ought to be propelled out as soon as possible unless it’ll turn toxic anytime soon. For your information, this cleaning phase happens every day from around 4 am to 10 am, which is why the body doesn’t produce digestive enzymes (because it’s too busy cleaning itself!).  It’s a safe bet to ONLY eat fruits in the morning. To digest fruits, it doesn’t require digestive enzymes because enzyme contained in our saliva can do just that! This is also why we’d better chew fruits perfectly before swallowing it so as to expose it to the enzyme in saliva.


All the explanation is in accordance with Allah’s holy verses in The Qur’an :

وَلَوْ أَنَّمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ مِن شَجَرَةٍ أَقْلَامٌ وَالْبَحْرُ يَمُدُّهُ مِن بَعْدِهِ سَبْعَةُ أَبْحُرٍ مَّا نَفِدَتْ كَلِمَاتُ اللَّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ

“ And if all the trees on earth were pens and the ocean (were ink), with seven oceans behind it to add to its (supply), yet would not the Words of Allah be exhausted (in the writing); for Allah is Exalted in Power, Full of Wisdom.” ( Luqman : 27 )

The Religious Dilemma (Position among the Stars- Part 3)

I wrote the draft of this post in the Jakarta-Bogor commuter line train. Great experience to write! Writers must love trains! And the notebook -one with paper not running on battery- is the most loyal and easy-to-use tool to document every train of thoughts.

It’s always nice to see how people live side by side despite being different. Being different at times separates us apart. I’m not like you. You’re not like me. Thus we should never be agreed on any things. But life keeps a zillion mysteries.

I haven’t watched the previous installment (a friend of mine said this is the third of a trilogy) but I thought there is something missing before this. And I was right.

In the previous trilogy, , it is told that the son has converted himself to Islam. The old lady wasn’t really pleased to learn this but she eventually came to terms with it.

After converting to Islam to his own will, the son didn’t seem to be fervent enough to learn his new faith he just declared to embrace.

In one early Sunday morning, the old lady who was a Catholic had to go to church to attend the Sunday morning sevice. She needed company but Tari was still asleep. The old lady continually woke her up yet in vain. Then came the uncle. He wanted Tari to accompany the old lady attending the service. “Come on, there’re only a flock of old women at the church!” Tari tousled her hair, still yawning and unwilling to leave the bed. It was early in the morning, for God’s sake! Yet it didn’t stop him to drag her out of the bed. Feeling upset, Tari asked her uncle in a bitter, flat tone, “Why don’t you accompany her instead?” “But I’m a moslem. How come a moslem goes to church??” the uncle got even more irritated. “You’re a moslem but we’ve never ever seen you praying (: shalat, Ind),” Tari protested. “Uhm, well… ,” he muttered, followed with a considerably long pause, unable to supply a logical argument. “Chekmate!” said the old lady, giggling. ” “That is absolutely true!” she found it particularly hilarious. Anda she continued giggling. Few moments later, the mother and mildly insulted son were seen on a motorbike, heading to the church. The church turned out to be less than majestic (don’t even think of a towering, classic-styled one like the cathedral downtown Jakarta). Nothing looked churchlike about it, except the congregation.

That’s the hard cold fact that any Christian or Catholic must deal with in several parts of this Moslem-dominated country. Once I overheard a Catholic priest talking with the you-know-who most prominent entrepreneurship evangelist in the country. He said, as far as I’m concerned, an opinion which would sound more or less like this: “(Indonesian) moslems are generally irritated when the neighborhood they’re living in shows a huge cross.” The cross or the symbol of Christianity seemes too either unbecoming or improper. One shouldn’t do it no matter what. It is intolerance, which the state and the laws have no approval of but the rest of the nation always clings to. It is natural, in fact. Human beings are selfish by nature. Once you’re considered a threat for their ego, you’ll be eliminated. That simple!

Tari was actually torn between these two older adults: her grandmom and her uncle.  She found it quite enigmatic to see two faiths embraced in the family. It was no easier for her at school. She was a moslem by law and school regarded her so. Nonetheless, deep down inside her conscience, Tari or Theresia loved Jesus (as written stealthily on the door of the rented house the family lived in). After all, Theresia sounded like a baptist name given after the shower ritual (excuse my inapt description, I myself am a moslem). My hunch is, thus, she was baptized early by the parents or grandmother.

And then another scene showed Tari and the grandmom went to a place looking a lot like a school auditorium. It was spacious, much bigger than a classroom. There were a lot of students in uniform. I don’t knw exactly what it was but what happened there was she, along with several other students who freshly graduated, was interviewed by a teacher. Perhaps it was an interview of scholarship application. Tari was asked whether she knew the 5 pillars of Islam. Tari cast a blank stare and kept silent, while the teacher passed the question to another student. The student being asked answered in an effortless manner, “Syahadat (pledge), salat (pray), zakat (alms),  puasa (fasting, and haji (hajj- pilgrimage trip to Madina and Mecca).”

There was nothing that Tari could do but leave the room with her last shred of dignity. But before she could flee, another humiliation was awaiting. The teacher- wearing veil- mumbled that Tari only wanted the money (scholarship fund) but didn’t even give a damn about the most basic questions of all. She looked uneasy, ashamed, guilty (maybe because she felt like she wouldn’t make it), as she  kept on scratching her head during the interview.

As Tari went out of the auditorium, her grand mother asked how the interview test was going. Tari was silenced by the question. She nodded weakly, only making sure the grandmother wouldn’t notice her troubled heart. She clearly wasn’t fully recovered from the great humiliation she just experienced. That was hard on the teenage girl. But the grandmom wouldn’t  find out that anyhow Tari was still conflicting against the other self inside. What doubt? I guess it has something to do with the question: “Is she supposed to be a Catholic or a Moslem?”

P. S. : Read the previous related posts:

The Amazingly Mixed-up Indonesia

The Anger and Disappointment 

Paradoks Iblis dan Ulat: Ketaatan itu Diwujudkan dalam Ketidaktaatan

Ulat ini muncul di brokoli yang mau aku makan. Seperti Iblis, ulat adalah makhluk 'menjijikkan' yang hadir ke dunia karena suatu alasan.

Seorang teman siang berceloteh di musholla siang itu, “Hmm, dulu katanya iblis itu pinter dan taat sama Allah lho, bahkan lebih pinter dibanding malaikat yang kerjanya cuma bisa patuh sama perintah Allah.” Entah apa awalnya yang kami bicarakan hingga sampai membahas topik Iblis segala. Absurd…

Lalu seorang teman menyangkal. Perdebatan terjadi. Aku cuma mengamati. That’s me. An observer. Aku tak terlalu suka debat. What’s the point anyway? Bukannya aku anti diskusi , tapi aku lebih suka menelaah untuk diri sendiri sebelum benar-benar mengetahui suatu isu/ topik. Jangan sampai mengeluarkan pernyaataan asal supaya kelihatan pintar.

Tapi intinya temanku tadi menceritakan apa yang pernah ia dengar dan ketahui entah dari guru atau bacaannya bahwa Iblis, yang konon menjadi nenek moyang setan-setan sekarang, itu dulunya sebelum Nabi Adam AS diciptakan Allah adalah makhluk ciptaanNya yang paling cerdas. Lalu saat Iblis diperintahkan hormat pada manusia oleh Allah,  ia menolak, tapi malaikat begitu saja mau. Nah, temanku ini berargumen bahwa Iblis menolak perintah Allah itu karena Iblis cuma mau menghormat/ sujud pada Allah. Tak hanya di situ, temanku mengatakan Iblis rela untuk menggoda manusia dan menjerumuskannya demi mematuhi perintah-Nya untuk menguji keimanan kita.

Ok, that’s new to me! Entah pengetahuanku yang dangkal atau memang lain dari temanku ini, aku sejak dulu ‘mengetahui’ (baca: menerima doktrin) bahwa Iblis menolak hormat/ sujud pada manusia karena kesombongannya. Tapi ini kutipan terjemahan ayat Quran yang relevan:

34. Dan (ingatlah) ketika Kami berfirman kepada para malaikat: “Sujudlah[36] kamu kepada Adam,” maka sujudlah mereka kecuali Iblis; ia enggan dan takabur dan adalah ia termasuk golongan orang-orang yang kafir. (QS Al Baqarah)

[catatan kaki 36]. Sujud di sini berarti menghormati dan memuliakan Adam, bukanlah berarti sujud memperhambakan diri, karena sujud memperhambakan diri itu hanyalah semata-mata kepada Allah.

Ok, perdebatan aku tutup sampai di sini daripada berargumen tanpa alasan dan pengetahuan yang jelas. Yang menarik bukan bagaimana kata ‘sujud’ ini memicu multiinterpretasi tetapi lebih pada kontradiksi yang (bisa saja) terjadi dalam diri Iblis.

Pertanyaan yang kemudian muncul ialah : “Bisakah seseorang begitu setia dan menghambanya pada majikannya sampai-sampai ia justru malah membangkang dari majikannya (entah itu karena inkonsistensi majikan, fanatisme berlebihan pada ajaran/ perkataan si majikan atau faktor lain)?

Jangan dijawab, jangan diperdebatkan, cukup renungi saja…Just a food for our thought and soul tonight.