Saturday 14 November 2015

Elizabeth Gilbert's Your Elusive Creative Genius

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, delivered a speech about how a creative genius resides in all of us; we just have to tap into it.  After the success of her memoir, people approached her and asked if she was worried about topping the success she had just experienced.  However, Elizabeth pointed out that, over twenty years before, people had the same reaction when she first announced that she wanted to become a writer.

Elizabeth goes on to mention how writers, and creative people in general, tend to be tortured souls who suffer from depression (Ernest Hemingway committed suicide; Norman Mailer was a raging alcoholic; Stephen King was addicted to drugs).  A writer's career is tied directly to his or her creative success.  Something like writer's block can spell the end of a literary career.

The author mentions how the Romans and the Greeks believed that creativity came from a separate spirit, something the Greeks called a "daemon", that lived in an artist's studio.  However, during the Renaissance, people started to believe that genius came from the self, rather than from a separate entity.  Elizabeth believes that such a belief puts too much of a burden on the shoulders of the artist.  "[I think] the pressure of that has been killing off our artists fort he past 500 years," she explains.

Elizabeth gives the example of poet Ruth Stone who used to work in the fields of rural Virginia.  All of a sudden, she would fell a poem coming on:  "it was like a thunderous train of air".  She would race to the farmhouse for a piece of paper and a pen before she forgot the poem, furiously scribbling the words down from end to beginning, the way she had remembered it.  Elizabeth says that is how the creative process works for her as well.  It is elusive:  she must catch it when it's whizzing by.
Elizabeth compares herself to a mule:  she must sweat and labour every day to get to her destination. The road is not easy.  It is full of bumps and twists.  But her stubbornness allows her to persevere.

Elizabeth drives home her point with the following paragraph:

And what I have to sort of keep telling myself when I get really psyched out about that {duplicating her initial success] is don't be afraid.  Don't be daunted.  Just do your job.  Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that may 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.(

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