My friend Aaron sent me a link to this video of author Elizabeth Gilbert speaking at the TED conference. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and is a conference aimed at bringing together creative minds and speakers from fields that might not normally intersect with each other. Well, maybe I should let them explain what it is that they do.
Gilbert is yet another internationally famous author with whom I'm unfamiliar. I don't even have the excuse of my parochial monolingualism, since she's an American writing in English. For someone who reads as much as I do, I seem to be unfamiliar with a lot of best-selling writers. This can probably be taken as an omen concerning any future success I might have.
That said, this is a good presentation with some insightful and valuable ideas. Gilbert begins by addressing the question of why artists, writers in particular, collapse so often under the burden of their success. (And who knows how many are crushed by the anonymity of their failure?)
She suggests that there is too much pressure placed on writers by society and by the writers themselves. Specifically, the idea that suffering and creativity are somehow linked together. Also the idea that once someone creates a masterpiece, everything they do after that will be weak by comparison.
She offers the idea, inspired by classical ideas about Genius and daemons, that creative types may be occasionally touched by genius that comes from outside them. The best idea is to embrace this gift when it comes and to simply keep working when it doesn't, recognizing that being struck by a bolt of inspiration even once in a lifetime is a miracle to appreciate rather than a curse or burden to live up to.
I think there is a lot of merit to this concept, particularly if you consider the possibility that human beings exist within a network of ideas and events, a rich environment that bombards us constantly on subconscious as well as conscious levels. Who knows what inspiration might emerge from such an unpredictable and heady broth? We can try to control some of the factors, but I think the best we can do is stay as positive and focused as possible on the creative goals that matter most to us.
Anyway, she says all this better than I summarized it, so check out the video.