Your Elusive Genius
“Eat, Pray, Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.
Gilbert explores the difficult to grasp thought of where ideas come from. Good ideas often seem like little fragments, transients ideas that come from somewhere outside of us, and that in the right state of mind we can capture an idea as it passes on it’s journey. We just happen to be in the way and, sometimes, in the right state of mind to receive.
Of course that’s not how it happens, there is no genie to let out of the bottle.
I don’t, and nor does Gilbert, agree that ideas come from outside us, but we seem need a “second” voice, that seems to be outside us, so, as in all good storytelling, we make it up. We find a way to visualise a process we don’t fully understand.
The reality is you just have to show up for the job. As Gilbert says, be stubborn, keep at it. you can’t wait for inspiration to come to you, you have to get yourself into the right mindset and do the work. In some ways it’s a numbers game. The more you turn up, the more chance you have of getting the result you want.
But just turning up isn’t enough, you need to get into the right mind state too. This is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow”. That playful state of mind where relaxation and concentration meet, where time passes unnoticed. A bit like a trance. Perhaps that’s why we allocate this feeling to something outside us, like God. It’s easier to think of creativity as coming from outside of you, and perhaps visualising it this way helps to get into the right mindset. It’s difficult to believe that creativity comes from you, it’s easier to think it comes from a force outside. Whatever helps to make it happen is worthwhile.
But Gilbert’s advice is right “Do your job…show up. be stubborn”.