Saturday, 10 March 2012

Suffering for your Art : The Daemon Genius Outside Us

Where does our creativity come from?
Is there something inside us, or is it sent to us from an external force?

I came across a video on the TED website, where Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) talks of creativity, creative individuals and the creative process. The full video can be seen on YouTube here or on the TED website here.

In this talk, she makes a valid point; does success, and the pursuit of success, (however an individual defines it) act as a precursor to anxiety and stress?

How many times have you thrown away pieces of work, or hit writer's block? Is the anticipation of what others may think a huge influence on your own views of your work?

And is she right that by thinking of creativity as an external power, are we able to push some of that negativity away?

Elizabeth refers to what the Ancient Greeks called the 'daemon' and the Ancient Romans referred to as 'genius' - both external forces that visited a person for a specific period of time in order to inspire something. Creativity was not seen as an inherent part of personality, but as a gift from a superior being/God.

I particularly liked the section of the talk when Elizabeth talked about the poet Ruth Stone:

I have mulled over this for a little while, and come to the conclusion that I love the idea of creativity being an external part of us; something that I can share the burden and priviliges with. In some ways, I see it as quite therapeutic to externalise something I thought was internal (and makes me feel better about talking to the walls!) This is not to say that it should not be valued, or that creative individuals are lacking in ability; I believe that certain individuals (in this case, creatives) are more open and susceptible to hearing/seeing/feeling the inspiration and therefore use it to be creative. It is just refreshing to think about things differently, and as creatives we should be open to doing so.
"Maybe [artistry] 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 … it starts to change everything." Elizabeth Gilbert, February 2009.

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