Uncursing Creative Genius



Friend, fellow writer, and my critique partner, Darbie Andrews, sent me this amazing Ted talk on creative genius this week. Her timing was spot on as this is something I’ve been mulling over for the past few weeks. (Tedx commercial break: I’m a big Tedx fan and will be at the Tedx in Redding on 9/7 at 2. Hope to see you there!)

Elizabeth Gilbert speaks on emotional underpinnings of the creative process. After sitting in “Jobs” last night with my husband on date night, I told him as we were leaving, “This isn’t a movie about the history of Apple Computers and technology. This is a movie about the ups and downs of the creative mind, and all the benefits and liabilities that go with that that.” We see Jobs’ eyes (well, Ashton Kutcher’s actually)  fire up when he’s in the zone, visioning what the future will look like. He walks into his designer’s room and says, “Stop whatever you’re doing and spend the rest of the day creating something you like. Something useful.” That’s a guy who appreciates the creative process.

But with that creativity comes a dark side. Jobs’ relationships suffered. All of them. And he suffered because of it.

How do we manage the creative process without matching the fate of so many respected writers, artists, and other creators who’ve come before us? Long time writer whose “freakish success” Eat, Pray, Love (as she calls it in the talk), Gilbert takes a look at Greek and Roman times as a space to return to when thinking of creative genius. That, at moments, God shines through, and others recognize Him.

Back then, it was believed that creative spirits were something that existed outside of the creator rather than inside as is the current cultural thought. She argues that this current cultural thought could be the undoing of our great creative minds as they obsess on such things as “Will I ever be able to top that last thing?” when they’ve had success or alternatively, “What if all my work is for nothing and nobody ever sees it?” before they feel successful. It all rides on the individual. At least with the old model, there is someone else to blame when things go poorly, and to share the success with when things go well so the ego doesn’t get too overblown.

If you’ve ever struggled with the emotional landscape of the creative process (and to one degree or another we all have), you’ll appreciate Gilbert’s prompt on how to strengthen our creative future both individually and collectively.

Go. Watch it now. You’ll be glad you did.


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