Genius: an exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work in science, art, music, etc.
Hello my creative friends, are you looking for an inspiring video to get your weekend started off right? Yes, I thought so…you are in luck! This is what I call an oldie but goody.
Back in 2009, Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) gave a talk where she mused on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses, sharing the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a timeless and funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk she gave via TED TALKS. Take the 19 minutes to feed your creativity – you know you have some or you wouldn’t be reading this blog.
Watch this amazing and inspirational talk here:
A few of my favorite excerpts from her talk:
“Norman Mailer, just before he died, last interview, he said “Every one of my books has killed me a little more.” An extraordinary statement to make about your life’s work, you know. But we don’t even blink when we hear somebody say this because we’ve heard that kind of stuff for so long and somehow we’ve completely internalized and accepted collectively this notion that creativity and suffering are somehow inherently linked and that artistry, in the end, will always ultimately lead to anguish.”
“…ancient Greece and ancient Rome — people did not happen to believe that creativity came from human beings back then, O.K.? People believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source, for distant and unknowable reasons. The Greeks famously called these divine attendant spirits of creativity “daemons.” Socrates, famously, believed that he had a daemon who spoke wisdom to him from afar. The Romans had the same idea, but they called that sort of disembodied creative spirit a genius. Which is great, because the Romans did not actually think that a genius was a particularly clever individual. They believed that a genius was this, sort of magical divine entity, who was believed to literally live in the walls of an artist’s studio, kind of like Dobby the house elf, and who would come out and sort of invisibly assist the artist with their work and would shape the outcome of that work.”
Who is your genius?
“So the ancient artist was protected from certain things, like, for example, too much narcissism, right? If your work was brilliant you couldn’t take all the credit for it, everybody knew that you had this disembodied genius who had helped you. If your work bombed, not entirely your fault, you know? Everyone knew your genius was kind of lame. And this is how people thought about creativity in the West for a really long time.”
“… then the Renaissance came and everything changed…you start to hear people referring to this or that artist as being a genius rather than having a genius. And I got to tell you, I think that was a huge error. You know, I think that allowing somebody, one mere person to believe that he or she is like, the vessel, you know, like the font and the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable, eternal mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile, human psyche. It’s like asking somebody to swallow the sun. It just completely warps and distorts egos, and it creates all these unmanageable expectations about performance. And I think the pressure of that has been killing off our artists for the last 500 years.”
“I’m a mule, and the way that I have to work is that I have to get up at the same time every day, and sweat and labor and barrel through it really awkwardly…even I have had work or ideas come through me from a source that I honestly cannot identify. And what is that thing? And how are we to relate to it in a way that will not make us lose our minds, but, in fact, might actually keep us sane?”
“…what I have to, sort of keep telling myself when I get really psyched out about that, is, don’t be afraid. Don’t be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be.If your job is to dance, 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 through your efforts, then “Ole!” And if not, do your dance anyhow. And “Ole!” to you, nonetheless. I believe this and I feel that we must teach it. “Ole!” to you, nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up.”
More about Elizabeth Gilbert:
Elizabeth Gilbert faced down a premidlife crisis by doing what we all secretly dream of – running off for a year. Her travels through Italy, India and Indonesia resulted in the megabestselling and deeply beloved memoir Eat, Pray, Love, about her process of finding herself by leaving home.
She’s a longtime magazine writer – covering music and politics for Spin and GQ – as well as a novelist and short-story writer. Her books include the story collection Pilgrims, the novel Stern Men (about lobster fishermen in Maine) and a biography of the woodsman Eustace Conway, called The Last American Man. Her work has been the basis for one movie so far (Coyote Ugly, based on her own memoir, in this magazine article, of working at the famously raunchy bar), and now it looks as if Eat, Pray, Love is on the same track, with the part of Gilbert reportedly to be played by Julia Roberts. Not bad for a year off. Gilbert also owns and runs the import shop Two Buttons in Frenchtown, New Jersey.