Most people know Elizabeth Gilbert only as the author of a bestselling novel Eat, Pray, Love, telling the story of her spiritual journey from the depths of depression to self-fulfillment and enlightenment. There is, however, much more to her.
It may come as news to those who have heard about her only as the author of this book, but she has been an accomplished writer and journalist long before its publication. It is not hard to understand why she may have remained pretty obscure – none of her previous works have attracted that much attention as Eat, Pray, Love, a novel that stayed on New York Magazine Bestseller list for 187 weeks and led to a film adaptation starring Julia Roberts.
However, this kind of popularity had a downside to it – it stigmatized Elizabeth Gilbert as a writer of generic self-help books or, as she herself puts it, even worse – a chick lit author, without any hope of being treated seriously ever again. Ironically, the book that brought her much more money and fame than any other part of her work simultaneously eliminated her reputation as a writer, creating instead almost a cult following that she probably didn’t ask for.
For quite some time she was apprehensive about writing and publishing anything else – simply because she was afraid of disappointing her readers who expected something fundamentally different from what she had to offer them. She even considered giving up literary career for good, following the examples of Harper Lee and J.D. Salinger.
She worked on several projects half-heartedly over the next few years but abandoned them; the change came only when she decided to write a second memoir, this time dedicated to the concept of marriage and commitment; the book itself is called Committed and was published in 2010 – as Gilbert puts it, at the time she was more nervous than elated, all for the same reason – she was afraid of disappointing her fans.
To her joy, the book was received rather warmly – and since then Gilbert lost the fear that hindered her work, the fear that comes to any author of a particularly successful novel – the fear that the next project will be found wanting in comparison with the previous work.
So now Gilbert has returned to her literary career full-time and is not going to leave anytime soon. With all probability, we will hear about her more than once in future.