Your elusive creative genius | Elizabeth Gilbert | Summary and Q&A

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February 9, 2009
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TED
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Your elusive creative genius | Elizabeth Gilbert

TL;DR

The speaker discusses the fear and pressure associated with creativity, and suggests a different perspective on the creative process to alleviate anxiety and encourage artists to continue their work.

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Key Insights

  • 💡 The fear of failure is a common emotion experienced by many creative individuals throughout their careers.

Transcript

I am a writer. Writing books is my profession but it's more than that, of course. It is also my great lifelong love and fascination. And I don't expect that that's ever going to change. But, that said, something kind of peculiar has happened recently in my life and in my career, which has caused me to have to recalibrate my whole relationship with ... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How does the speaker suggest shifting the mindset around creativity to alleviate anxiety and encourage continued work?

The speaker suggests approaching creativity as a collaboration between the artist and an external force, rather than solely relying on individual brilliance. By acknowledging the mystery and relinquishing control, artists can relieve themselves of the pressure to constantly produce extraordinary work and find joy in the process itself. This perspective allows for a sense of curiosity, openness, and resilience in the face of uncertainty.

Summary

In this talk, the speaker discusses her career as a writer and the pressures and fears that come with it, particularly after experiencing a huge success with her previous book. She questions why creative ventures, such as writing, often make people nervous about each other's mental health and explores the historical understanding of creativity as a divine entity. The speaker also shares personal anecdotes and encounters with other artists who have found ways to navigate the creative process and manage expectations, emphasizing the importance of showing up for one's work and embracing the mysterious nature of creativity.

Questions & Answers

Q: Why does the speaker feel the need to recalibrate her relationship with writing?

The speaker feels the need to recalibrate her relationship with writing because of the peculiar success she experienced with her previous book, which has raised questions and concerns about her ability to replicate that success in the future.

Q: Why does the speaker mention the reactions she received when she first started telling people she wanted to be a writer?

The speaker mentions the reactions she received when she first started telling people she wanted to be a writer in order to point out the persistent fears and doubts that accompany creative pursuits, regardless of whether one is just starting out or achieving massive success.

Q: Is it rational to be afraid of the work one feels they were put on this Earth to do?

The speaker acknowledges that it may not be rational to be afraid of the work one feels they were put on this Earth to do, but she also believes that creativity is often accompanied by irrational fears and anxieties that are difficult to overcome.

Q: What specifically makes people nervous about each other's mental health when it comes to creative ventures?

The speaker raises the question of why creative ventures, such as writing, make people nervous about each other's mental health in a way that other careers do not. She suggests that the reputation of creative people being mentally unstable, combined with the historically high death count of creative individuals, contributes to this perception.

Q: How did ancient Greeks and Romans view creativity?

The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that creativity came from divine attendant spirits called "daemons" or "genius" that would assist artists in their work. They did not see creativity as solely originating from human beings but rather as a mysterious force that would inspire and shape artistic endeavors.

Q: What did the Renaissance bring about in terms of creative thinking?

The Renaissance brought about a shift in creative thinking by placing the individual human being at the center of the creative process. This led to the belief that creativity came solely from the self of the individual, rather than from divine sources or external influences.

Q: How did this change in perspective affect artists?

The change in perspective during the Renaissance, where the individual artist was considered the source of creativity and genius, placed a significant burden of responsibility on artists. This could lead to distorted egos, unmanageable expectations, and pressure that has been detrimental to the well-being of artists for the past 500 years.

Q: How did Tom Waits change his perspective on his creative process?

Tom Waits changed his perspective on his creative process when he encountered a fragment of melody while driving and felt the anxiety of potentially losing it. Instead of panicking, he addressed the creative force or genius outside of himself and asked it to return at a more opportune moment when he could fully engage with it. This shift allowed him to release the internalized anxiety and approach his work as a collaboration with the external creative force.

Q: How did the speaker apply Tom Waits' approach to her own writing process?

The speaker applied Tom Waits' approach to her own writing process when she faced a moment of despair and self-doubt while working on her book "Eat, Pray, Love." She addressed the creative force or genius outside of herself, affirming that she was doing her part of the job and inviting it to do its part as well. This perspective shift helped her overcome her fear of failure and allowed her to continue writing.

Q: How does the speaker propose we view creativity differently?

The speaker proposes that we consider the possibility that the most extraordinary aspects of our creative endeavors are not solely originating from us as individual artists. Instead, they are on loan to us from some unimaginable source and meant to be passed along to others. By embracing this perspective, we can alleviate the pressure and anxiety that often accompanies creative work and approach it with a sense of wonder and collaboration.

Takeaways

The speaker emphasizes the importance of showing up for one's creative work and doing it with dedication and love, regardless of the outcome. She encourages a shift in perspective, where creativity is viewed as a collaborative process with an external creative force or genius. By recognizing that the most extraordinary aspects of our creative endeavors are not solely our own, we can alleviate pressure and anxiety and approach creativity with a sense of wonder and gratitude.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The speaker reflects on the fear-based reactions she received throughout her writing career, and the pressure to constantly surpass past successes.

  • She explores the historical perspective of creativity as a divine, external force working through artists, rather than solely originating from within.

  • Through personal anecdotes and examples, she encourages artists to embrace the unknown and approach their work with curiosity, relinquishing the burden of expectation.

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