Tuesday, August 31, 2010

TED Talk Tuesday: Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity

Despite my distaste for Eat, Pray, Love (discussed here and here last week if you missed it), I do think Elizabeth Gilbert seems like a lovely person and I like this talk. She proposes that we should think of creativity as something separate from ourselves, something on loan. She discusses how the ancient Greeks and Romans thought of creative people as having a genius rather than being a genius, and that this mindset acts as a buffer for both narcissism when our work is successful and despair when our work bombs. I like it. I think it's an example of how a story can be a useful psychological coping device, even if it's not a factual story.

I also think it fits in well with a post by Loren at Slightly Moderated Stream of Consciousness, where he discusses briefly his writing process. For most of us, creativity is something we have to work at. If you want the genius to come, you have to do your part to invite it.


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  1. This reminds me a lot of that thing they tell parents, to praise effort rather than results. It helps keep the focus for the child on how hard they tried not whether they succeeded or failed, and thus encourages effort in the future. There is probably something to be said for a paradigm in which creativity is less of an attribute to be had, but a goal to be striven for. Interesting clip.

  2. Rhacodactylus, something I try to emphasize with my son is a focus on the process more than the result. When he shows me his drawings, I'll ask, "Did you have fun making that?" Whether or not he grows up to be a "successful" artist, I want creativity to be a positive and enjoyable part of his life.

    I do praise his drawings too though. I may just be his biased mother, but I think his work is exceptional for a six-year-old. :-)

    Something else for us creatives to keep in mind is that whether or not something ends up being popular often has nothing to do with whether or not it's any good. There are so many other factors involved, most of them beyond our control.

  3. Well, and you always hear the stories of the geniuses who died broke or unrecognized: Mozart, Van Gogh, and Gregor Mendel pop to mind, but there are thousands.

    I once heard that "popularity is the hallmark of mediocrity" I'm pretty sure it was meant as a joke, but it's funny because it's at least partially true.

  4. Yeah, most of what appeals to the masses lacks depth.


Religion, skepticism, and carving out a spiritual life post-Mormonism