Elizabeth Gilbert’s Creative Path: Saying No, Trusting Your Intuition, Index Cards, Integrity Checks, Grief, Awe, and Much More (#430)

“We live in a culture that says you should be able to power through anything. Life will very generously remind you that you cannot, and it will very generously break you at times and very generously show you.”  — Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert (@GilbertLiz) is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Magic and Eat, Pray, Love, as well as several other internationally bestselling books. She has been a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her latest novel, City of Girls, was named an instant New York Times Best Seller and is a rollicking, sexy tale of the New York City theater world during the 1940s.

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.

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#430: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Amazing Creative Toolkit: Saying No, Trusting Intuition, Seeking Awe, Bathing in Grief, and Index Cards

This episode is brought to you by Thrive Marketwhich saves me a ton of money and is perfect for these crazy times. Thrive Market is a membership-based site on a mission to make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone. You can find all types of food, supplements, nontoxic home products, clean wine, dog food—just about anything. Members earn wholesale prices every day and save an average of $30 on each order. I personally saved $39 on my most recent order. 

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


Want to hear an episode with another author who fearlessly follows her own path? Listen to my conversation with Cheryl Strayed in which we discuss books as religion, writing prompts and processes, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and much more.

#231: Cheryl Strayed — How to Be Creative Like a Motherf*cker


  • Connect with Elizabeth Gilbert:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


  • Liz shares who Rayya Elias was and how she’s remembered her in story at The Moth. [07:17]
  • The truth has legs. [13:10]
  • What did Liz learn about her own grieving process through this experience? [15:34]
  • Why finding humor in the most difficult of times is crucial if we want to make it through “earth school.” [21:46]
  • How did Liz come to know writing as her “source of light?” [26:04]
  • What kind of stories and storytellers make Liz break out in applause? [33:04]
  • Seeking the edges of human imagination, using the word “interesting” to defuse drama and trauma, and counteracting co-dependence with sappy love songs. [41:55]
  • When working on a new project, what method of organizing and planning does she use — as learned from her ninth-grade teacher Mr. Kisco? How did it come in handy when doing research for City Of Girls, her latest book? [45:28]
  • The things present Liz endures for future Liz. [50:24]
  • What percentage of Liz’s research makes it into the final draft of a book? Does she feel what’s left over is a waste? [52:04]
  • What does Liz take from the lessons of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations? [56:15]
  • What has Liz learned from Martha Beck? [1:02:41]
  • On staying true to one’s inner compass before making commitments, and how Liz phrases her “No” answers without remorse. [1:13:00]
  • The power of the simple no and other lessons learned from Byron Katie — or how to say no to even the most persistent and avoid negotiation when your inner compass tells you it’s the right thing to do. [1:17:35]
  • Liz’s perspective on psychedelics, and words of caution for anyone hoping to use them as a quick and easy fix to complex problems. [1:30:58]
  • Using The Artist’s Way to recover your creativity from its trauma. [1:39:02]
  • Liz shares an example of how she made an artist’s date. [1:45:31]
  • How closely did the book proposal for Eat, Pray, Love match the ultimate book, and were there other titles Liz considered? [1:49:57]
  • Liz’s take on City of Girls as a rebuttal to the cautionary tale (usually written by a man) of the woman who lives a free and open sexual life and suffers terrible consequences as a result. [1:53:10]
  • Are there any aspects or portions of anything Liz has written that she wishes more people would notice more often? [1:57:36]
  • Parting thoughts. [2:01:23]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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31 Replies to “Elizabeth Gilbert’s Creative Path: Saying No, Trusting Your Intuition, Index Cards, Integrity Checks, Grief, Awe, and Much More (#430)”

  1. Hey Tim! Would you be willing to donate a copy of 4 Hour Work Week or any of the other books you receive? Here’s why – I’m a high school science teacher; however, I believe there is a lot more to teach these kids than just high school science. This is why the only extra credit I offer students is for reading a book on entrepreneurship, resiliency, financial literacy, creativity, leadership, etc. and talking to me about it. I have a short list of books at the moment that I am looking to grow. I have been listening to 4 Hour Work Week and love it, so I would like to have a physical copy for my students to access once we return in the fall. I also read that you donate lots of the books that are sent to you. If yes, I can provide you with an address. If not, thank you anyway!

    1. A favorite quotation, on knowing what we want and truth…”Your intuition is trying to tell you something, and your addiction is over-riding it.”

  2. Blown away. Again. Cried my heart out; my father, too, died of pancreatic cancer and I can so relate to Elizabeth’s loss. I could never guess that Elizabeth is such a fascinating person! Keep discovering unique people through Tim’s blog. Went straight to listening “Big Magic”, beautifully narrated by the author herself, and it is truly magical.

  3. Hello Tim,

    Gilbert’s idea of where your internal compass is located is so in sync with the chakra system. It’s called the solar plexus chakra.

    “The third chakra is located behind the naval region below the rib cage. It is associated with self-confidence, self-discipline and wisdom. This chakra is also responsible for the ‘gut feeling’. For the uninitiated, gut feeling is getting a cue about something which isn’t right for you.”

    Quoting from here – [Moderator: link to timesofindia article removed.]

    Thank you so much for this fun interview with a lot of insights into the creative process.

  4. This was another delightful podcast I enjoyed on my daily walk. I learnt a lot from it, especially the aspect of saying no. I found Elizabeth ‘s laugh to be infectious. Thanks again Tim x

  5. Tim, I just want to receive the 5 Bullet Friday mail, since I already listen to the podcast and do not need any news about that. Can you change the unsubscribe options in your newsletter so that these are two different ones??

  6. i loved listening to the warmth in Elizabeths voice. Great tips for writers. JK Rowling prepares manuscrpts the same way.Thanks Tim for turning me on to Tara Brach. Her Wednesday meditations are good for my soul.

    1. The Vikings book is from the Michael Lewis interview. 🙂 It is called The Long Ships and was written by Frans Bengtsson.
      -Team Tim Ferriss

      1. <3 Thank you! You guys have been so good at getting everything in there that you've made me lazy!

  7. Hey Tim and team! I LOVED this interview with Gilbert. She weaves in her spirituality in such a down to earth manner. Touching and giddy, I loved her perspective. I was wondering if you are planning to upload podcast transcripts? There’s a couple of quotes she had (as many of you and your guests do as well) that I’d like to save as inspiration for my blog. Thanks for everything. Your podcast is just as much a part of my morning routine as oat flour pancakes and coffee. Thank you!

  8. This was a fantastic interview! Thank you so much for including such a thoughtful, introspective guest. I have so many takeaways from this conversation and will definitely return to it again in the future.

  9. Great episode, Tim and Liz! Little, Big! Still in love with that book after all these years. Maybe have John Crowley as a guest on your show?

  10. Brilliant program. Elizabeth Gilbert is my new Guru. Eat, Prey, Love is one of my favourite books. I was blown away by her comments about The poem East Coker. I am a teacher at East Coker Primary School. Elizabeth: Next time you are in the Uk, I would love to give you a private tour of East Coker and the actual places that inspired the poem.

  11. I hesitated to listen to this interview because I felt like I’d heard so much about and from Liz Gilbert lately, but you completely blew it out of the ballpark. I learned so many new and interesting things about life and gained new insight into hers. I actually turned around and listened to it a second time (along with sending it to everyone that I could think of!). As a long-time listener of yours from the beginning, I can honestly say that I think this was one of your very best interviews. Congrats and welcome to Austin! It’s a wonderful place to live.

  12. God I love this woman. Her books (and podcast) on creativity pulled me right out of the depths of creative hell.
    Thank you for your words Liz.

  13. Hey Tim, great guest as usual.
    Is there a reason for referring to your girl friend as “my girl friend” when you talk about her, instead of using her name?
    We all know your dog’s name (Molly).

  14. Tim,thank you for doing this interview. I knew nothing about Elizabeth Gilbert. I am apparently one of 5 people on the planet who had never read “Eat,Pray Love”. After listening to this interview I bought a copy and it’s one of the most remarkable memoirs that I’ve ever read. I’m also planning on reading her new novel. That was a phenomenal conversation to listen to.

  15. Hi Tim, a lovely interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, thank you. I’m an Aussie in NYC, and am leading an Artist Way group with the Australian Woman in New York (we’re a thing). We’re doing various activities to respond to the artist date – some people have pulled out long buried paints and canvases and are doodling, some are out of the city and taking pics of the land around them and posting to instagram, some are doing MOMA Mooc courses etc, I have a theatre background and am creating (imperfect) weekly videos. Other dates include watching livestreams from the National Theatre (UK), the 92nd St Y, listening to podcasts (I love OnBeing with Krista Tippet), baking bread, fermenting etc. And to note: I’ve done the Artists Way before (on my own, not with a group) and never did the artist date. Since I work in the arts perhaps at the time I thought I’d had enough art, BUT committing to this activity has been profoundly centering. Somehow, it’s evaded my censor and is gently showing me that I can trust where I a treading. I hope the above suggestions help. All the best 🙂

  16. Hi Tim!

    I must be one of your latest fans, I have recently discovered your podcast and one of the first episodes I have heard is this one. I have to thank you both for such a nice and deep and emotional conversation. A total unexpected revelation!

    I am kind of introvert, and very fond of this type of meaninful conversations, so again many thanks for bringing us so much knowledge and insights on life.

    Kind regards,


  17. This was really amazing. Thank you. Please interview more women, there are are so many incredible lessons to be learned from their perspective.

  18. Wow, such beautiful and inspiring words. As someone who is in a creative profession, I found a lot of useful information from this conversation.

    Thank you to both of you for making this happen!