Regina recommended this TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert (the author of Eat, Pray, Love).
Thank you, Regina, for this this video about genius, the muse, life’s mysteries, the Divine, and the capriciousness of the creative process.
Elizabeth externalizes and deconstructs genius and creativity. She speaks about “disembodied genius” and talking to the Creativity- and then puts creativity into an historic context, moving from ancient Greece, through the Renaissance and into rational humanism. She speaks about “taking dictation from the Divine” – of being visited (and at times possessed?) by genius, rather than “being” genius.
Elizabeth tells a delightful story about a conversation with Ruth Stone, a Vermont poet now in her 90s – Ruth describes her experience of feeling and hearing a poem coming, akin to being chased by a poem, running like hell to collect it, grab it on the page – how she tries to catch it by its tail. Really worth hearing!
She also tells a wonderful story about the musician Tom Watts’s experience of being visited by creative thought while driving. Tom too talks to the open air about his project – it’s externalization! I won’t spoil it for you.
I think my favorite part is the idea of creative process being mostly about showing up, working at your craft… then if you are lucky, you can get “A glimpse of God.” Elizabeth’s reference to “the creative process is more like a mule than a pipeline” makes me think of Michael’ White’s frequent reference to “apprenticeship to a craft” and “it’s the copying that originates.” We are mere mortals but at times we can ascend to witness – or become mules to carry forth – Divine acts of creation. “Creation is not from you, but on loan to you. Don’t be afraid: just do your job. Keep showing up.”
Listening to this talk really made me think about Michael who always showed such humility about his “genius” – I think this is at least partly because he too had a way of externalizing and deconstructing creative process.. I don’t think Michael denied his genius, but he did not take credit for it. He just knew it was his job to keep working hard at his craft/doing his best to invite the fairies to rub fairy juice on his projects.
What’s your favorite part?
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