I love listening to Elizabeth Gilbert, author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ talk about artists and the illusive yet coveted creative process behind works of genius. In one of the most viewed TED talks, Elizabeth delivers an intimate conversation about her innermost thoughts and philosophy related to her work. It’s the kind of conversation you would love to have with a creative peer, or even a genius of the past like Albert Einstein, over a glass of wine on a quiet evening.
She starts with the all too often association between suffering and artistry. Like why do artists have a reputation for being mentally unstable? Is there only a fine line between genius and the insane?
She suggests the suffering stems from a loss of ancient wisdom about how the creative process works. Today, we are mostly egocentric, focusing on the individual as sole creator rather than as a partnership between the artist and the divine, as the ancients believed.
Her need to rethink the creative process is a personal one, an answer to the pressure of her own astounding success. If the creative process is a partnership then her success is not completely her own and neither is her failure for that matter, say in the follow-up book to her one bestseller, so far.
Her journey takes us to the ancient daemons of Greece and the genius of Rome before we became too smart for ourselves. The idea that inspirations come from a source separate from the mere individual is an idea we inherently seem to know is true.
What do you think? Is it crazy to believe in divine inspiration separate from the individual? Or do you think the genius of artists is really about tapping into the creative ether around us?