The Creative Genie

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, talks about the mysteries and frustrations of the creative process. Below the video is a sampling of free associations from when I watched the video myself.

03:50 "Somehow we've completely internalized and accepted, collectively, this notion that creativity and suffering are somehow inherently linked. And that artistry, in the end, will always ultimately lead to anguish. ...I'm not at all comfortable with that assumption. I think it's odious, and I also think it's dangerous. And I also don't want to see it perpetuated into the next century."

Fortunately, in this 'next' century, we are seeing an increasing awareness and encouragement of the creative class, and of makers in general.

I remember my Dad, the artist. He was creative in many areas of his life - gardening, cooking, pottery, weaving, calligraphy, teaching, raising a daughter. He tried many things, and never restricted himself to a single medium.

Origins of the words "Genie" and "Genius"

Genie "mid 17th century (denoting a guardian or protective spirit): from French génie, from Latin genius (see genius). Génie was adopted in the current sense by the 18th-century French translators of The Arabian Nights' Entertainments, because of its resemblance in form and sense to Arabic jinni 'jinnee'"

Genius "late Middle English: from Latin, 'attendant spirit present from one's birth, innate ability or inclination', from the root of gignere 'beget'. The original sense 'spirit attendant on a person' gave rise to a sense 'a person's characteristic disposition' (late 16th century), which led to a sense 'a person's natural ability', and finally 'exceptional natural ability' (mid 17th century)"

09:25 "There's probably people in this audience who would raise very legitimate scientific suspicious about the notion of, basically, fairies who follow people around, like, rubbing fairy juice on their projects... Why not think about it this way? Because it makes as much sense as anything else I have ever heard in terms of explaining the utter, maddening capriciousness of the creative process."

That Thing

11:57 "I'm not the pipeline. I'm a mule. And the way that I have to work is that I have to get up at the same time every day and sweat, and labor, and barrel through it really awkwardly. But even I, in my mulishness, have brushed up against that thing."

That thing, I've felt it. A quickening of the pulse, a brush with a tangent universe in which my painting is finished and brilliantly realized. I can suddenly see where I need to go.

Because That's My Job

But it doesn't come all at once, except perhaps once every great while. I have to get up at the same time every day and go into the studio and work. I work to be workful. I pursue relaxed concentration.

How lucky the students of University of Wisconsin - Madison are to have the chance to take Lynda Barry's next class! The Unthinkable Mind will be "A writing and picture-making class with focus on the basic physical structure of the brain with emphasis on hemispheric differences and a particular sort of insight and creative concentration that seems to come about when we are using our hands (the original digital devices) to help us figure out a problem." Sadly, I am not a student at UW, but I hope that Ms. Barry will share her students' work on The Nearsighted Monkey like she did for the What It Is class.

14:58 "So I just lifted my face up from the manuscript and I directed my comments to an empty corner of the room, and I said aloud, 'Listen, you, thing. You and I both know that if this book isn't brilliant, that is not entirely my fault, right? Because you can see that I am putting everything I have into this. I don't have any more than this. So if you want it to be better, then you gotta show up and do your part of the deal, okay? But if you don't do that, you know what? The hell with it. I'm going to keep writing anyway because that's my job."

What does my genie look like?

I thought of Technical Boy from American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Also, Tavi Gevinson.

And, coincidentally, The Oatmeal's take on being a content creator (whole comic very much NSFW):

"Art is not born in a vacuum, but it's not born inside a tornado full of shrieking trolls, either."

See Elizabeth Gilbert's talk on the TED site.