Life lessons: Elisabetta Montaldo

The Italian writer and artist Elisabetta Montaldo offers her philosophies on life.

The Italian writer and artist Elisabetta Montaldo.
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Elisabetta Montaldo is an Italian painter, costume designer and writer. She studied in Rome and has designed award-winning costumes for opera, film and the theatre. She will present her novel, Rafila, at the Emirates Festival of Literature next month in Dubai.

1. Respect your talent as it is a flower to grow. All life long, whatever the changes I went through, I have always attempted to harness my creativity, channelling it into real jobs that would reward me with joy.

2. Never give up discovering who you are and who you would like to become. Travelling, art and show business are all in my DNA. When I was a teenager I wasn't conscious of this, but I was still flexible and open. Slowly, step by step, one gains one's own shape. At the same time the debt to the past is discovered - the solid roots that help us to grow anew in our own specific way.

3. It is difficult to work hard and to have a private life. What you need is courage, balance and luck. I wanted to have children, so I did. For several years I completely cut off travelling and making art. But I am not complaining. In fact, the strong need to follow my nature put me in the centre of the real world, saving me from the intellectualism that would have hampered my talents.

4. To do what you like and what you believe in is the greatest privilege. I constantly aim for this goal, tenaciously, avoiding the allure of money and fame. To enjoy and to be content with the simple pleasures of your work is to say thanks to life. Then life rewards you with the richest gifts.

5. To build a good life, don't forget what makes it beautiful and rich: love, friends, bravery and sincerity. All this contributes to my art, my source of inspiration and energy. Without this, I can't work honestly and express myself.

As told to Jemma Nicholls

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature runs March 6-10 at the InterContinental Hotel in Dubai;