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Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius

Completing a grammar refresher class and reading “The Elements of Style” has sent my creative genie scurrying behind the skirts of my internal editor. This is frustrating now that I have the time to write and there are several ideas spinning around a whirligig in my head. Searching for inspiration (Thank you Holistic Wayfarer!), I returned to a TED video I watched a few years ago: “Your Elusive Creative Genius,” by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is an amazing presentation that encourages writers to write.

Addressing fear of failure followed by success, the speaker explains her theory that our ability to write is partially attributed to a muse and, therefore, it follows that we are not completely to blame when our writing is stifled. The idea is that our pinnacles of success are on loan and at some point this loan is passed along to someone else.  I find the concept of an imaginary entity enchanting and consoling, not only as applied to the tormented creator, but also as a way to deal with success and failure of any kind.

The presentation includes a story about a dancer who gives a captivating, unearthly performance only to awaken the next morning, a mere mortal with aching knees. In the speaker’s words, “maybe it doesn’t have to be quite so full of anguish if you never happened to believe, in the first place, that the most extraordinary aspects of your being came from you. But maybe if you just believed that they were on loan to you from some unimaginable source for some exquisite portion of your life to be passed along when you’re finished, with somebody else.” I know some people will brush this off as self-delusion, but I don’t agree. I think we delude ourselves when we allow our ego to inflate during victorious moments, and then become self-destructive when events turn.

For example, when I’m at my goal weight and physically fit, it is easy to adopt a self-righteous attitude such as “If I can do it, anyone can.” But when exercise wanes and the pounds return, I slap myself silly. I will hold myself up as the ideal parent when my child does something remarkable; then crucify myself when trouble begins to brew. The point is that whether we are performers, dieters, widget makers, parents or writers, it makes sense that we will feel better and be more productive if we scale back on the self-imposed credit as well as the blame.

During the times of our life when we have been given the loan of talent, health, resources, parenting or creativity, let’s do what we love to do whether or not others label it as a success. When our extraordinary moments have passed, let’s celebrate the success of others whose time it is to shine.