I want to start you out by having you watch this amazing video. For those who know me well, know I am one of Elizabeth Gilbert's avid followers. I loved the book Eat, Pray, Love; the movie was amazing with Julia Roberts, and I listen to the audio constantly. As soon as I heard she did a TED talk, I was all over IT!
I love how she talks about herself as well as Creativity in others, etc.
"Gilbert achieved unexpected attention when her book was published a couple of years ago. And this was all very nice, except, since then, everyone has been wondering how she’ll ever top her achievement, as if it’s all downhill from here.
She looked at other societies to see how they regard this pressure on artists and found an answer in ancient Greece and Rome. In these places, people didn’t believe that creativity came from inside. They believed it was an attentive spirit that came to someone from a distant, unknowable source, she said.
"[It was] a magical divine entity that was believed to live literally in the walls of an artist’s studio and would come out and invisibly assist the artist with the work and shape the outcome of the work," she said.
This view served the artist’s mental health, she suggested, because by attributing the artist’s talent to an outside force, the artist was relieved of some of the pressure to perform, and was not narcissistic. If an artist’s work was brilliant, the outside force got the credit.
All that changed with the Renaissance when mysticism was replaced by a belief that creativity came from the self. For the first time, people started referring to an artist as being a genius rather than having a genius.
Give up on ever becoming a genius. Instead, ask for help from your Genius.
"Allowing somebody … to believe that he or she is … the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable, internal mystery is just like a smidge of too much responsibility to put on one fragile human psyche," she said. "It’s like asking somebody to swallow the sun. It just completely warps and distorts egos, and it creates all of these unnatural expectations about performance. I think the pressure of that has been killing off our artists for the last 500 years."She acknowledged that there were people in the rational-minded audience (which was filled with scientists) who would balk at the idea of creativity as a kind of "mystical fairy juice" that’s bestowed on someone. But she said it made as much sense as anything ever posited to explain the "utter, maddening, capriciousness of the creative process."
She goes on to talk about a couple of examples where people felt the Genius from within trying to tell them something and how they openly would talk to it and how acknowledging this changed their lives as well as those who embraced it. In a story about a songwriter the writer yelled out when he couldn't get to a piece in his head at that time to write it down...
"Excuse me. Can you not see I’m driving? 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 … otherwise go bother somebody else today. Go bother Leonard Cohen."Waits said his creative process, and the heavy anxiety that permeated it, changed that day. In releasing the creative force, he realized that creativity "could be a peculiar, wondrous, bizarre collaboration and conversation between Tom and the strange external genius that was not Tom," Gilbert said.
She also spoke of a female poet in this talk that has felt a poem soar through her to where she lost it, times where she felt it coming on and would run as fast as she could to get to a pen but perhaps miss it. But the divine thing she said about this women was how at times when she almost missed it she could grab it's tail and pull it back.
I write blogs, I write stories and I write poetry. In all these aspects I have felt this way. I know artists who draw who say they can see it in their mind but can't sketch it out on paper fast enough. I think about this and think perhaps it isn't that we are trying to absorb it before it gets away, perhaps like the female poet we need to understand that we have the ability to grab it's tail and pull it back if we so desire. Perhaps we jsut need to reach for it.
She spoke about when she was in the midst of writing Eat, Pray Love and fell into a pit of despair when she felt blocked and said aloud to whatever entity it was that usually helped her but was on furlough that day that if the book didn’t turn out to be good it wasn’t going to be entirely her fault since she was putting everything she had into the project. "So if you want [the book] to be better, then you’ve got to show up and do your part of the deal," she told it. "But I’ll keep writing anyway, because that’s my job. And I’d like the record to report today that I showed up.
How many of us have felt that way? We showed up, we are doing our part. We are giving it all we got. What about you? Are you giving it all you got? Are you showing up? If not how I relate to that is that if we are not showing up and doing our part then how, oh how is that creative entity supposed to flow through us?
She ends with "Just do your job," she told the audience. "Continue to show up for your piece of it. If your job is to dance, then do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed for just one moment for your efforts, then Ole. And if not, do your dance anyhow. Ole to you, nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up."
(Excerpt from talk are from http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2009/02/ted-how-we-kill/ )