April 7, 2009
Anyone who enjoys flexing their creative muscles knows the fear harbored within the deep part of yourself about the quality of your creation. Some may not care, saying they create for the mere pleasure afforded by the activity. I access my creative side to relieve stress and to engage in something other than the monotonous yet necessary tasks of my daily routine. I write, I sing, I paint, I cook. These things release some part of my soul, once bound by the empirical wire of my job and responsibilities. I begin to feel the joy often lost throughout the day.
However, I ask myself these questions: Is this thing I am creating good? What does good mean to me? Could I share this with others and have their appreciation not only of my efforts but of the true skill and originality reflected in the piece? Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the best-selling book, Eat, Pray, Love, spoke recently at TED (Technology.Entertainment.Design), an annual conference that brings the world's greatest thinkers together to give approximately 20 minute-speeches that center upon their life's work. These are stunning petite-fours of the intellectualism that fuels global cultural progress. Ms. Gilbert's astutely-delivered speech centers around the idea of creativity and how it's perception changes across culture and history. She attributes the success of her recent book to the idea that genius/creativity should be perceived as a divine spirit that visits occasionally, but is not always with an individual. Using examples from ancient Greece and Rome, Ms. Gilbert explains that one individual is not a "genius," but rather may experience the presence of such a being at various points in life. The phrase, "a stroke of genius," fosters the idea of genius as something that impacts the surface of mind, perpetuating the flow of aesthetically-pleasing and erudite thought.
This idea relieves the pressure about the quality of one's creation. But what if one is never visited by this genius? Several times when writing, I can recall the experience of an idea that felt so brilliant and well-constructed, producing a thrill that rises from my toes through the whole of my body. The idea embodies a blossoming of confidence and joy in the activity and a marriage between the creator and the creation. I am at my most whole when I have this feeling, such a gift of humanity.