This post is a continuation from last week’s. Sort of. :)
TED speech by Elizabeth Gilbert
I know many who love what Gilbert had to say. I think she has some valid points, like the high mortality rate of creative geniuses. I agree about the lack of support for creative artists, helping them manage “the inherent emotional risks of creativity.” The creative mind can walk a fine line between genius and crazy. :) I also agree that there must be a way to deal with this, so we don’t lose so many artists to tragic and unnecessary deaths.
But how that’s done? Well...I have to say that I completely disagree with her.
I need to take a moment to say this, because it's very important to me. The kidlit world of writing is an amazingly supportive one. Just look at places like Verla Kay's Blueboards or SCBWI. These places are treasure troves of information, as well as filled with people who are willing and happy to share their experiences, cheer you on, or comiserate. Sure, there's still jealousy and competition, but it's rare that it turns vicious (if ever). So if you write for kids and you're having trouble dealing with something, you have places to go. For the adult world of writing? I've heard rumors that it's nothing like the kidlit world. The opposite, in fact. So I can see much of Gilbert's talk applying more to that world.
Anyway, Gilbert had some interesting things to say about the daemon or genius, which has basically been translated into today's muse. The big difference is that society as a whole doesn’t believe the talent comes from the muse anymore, the way the ancient Greeks and Romans believed that talent came from a divine spirit (called the daemon or genius). Gilbert believes that we should go back to that philosophy, putting the talent back into the muse. That way the artist doesn’t bear the entire burden of success or failure. And if one artist is better than another, then that means one artist got a better muse than another – thereby, it’s not his fault.
That might be helpful for some people, but that philosophy doesn't apply to everyone. It's too specific. I’ve said this before, but I don’t have a muse. I don’t like them. If others want to have one, hey, that’s fine with me. But they don’t work for me. At all. Plus, I don’t buy that artists will accept that one person got a great muse but another didn’t. There would be much whining about ‘why did I get stuck with this idiot when he got the greatest muse in the world?’ :) Petty jealousy is still part of human nature.
I think that the real problem comes down to one's own self-confidence. What I mean by this is that you truly believe in yourself, not that you think you’re better than everyone else. If you believe in yourself, that you can do what you set out to do, then you will be able to let the fear roll off of you. If you don't, then the fear will find places to grab hold and hang on.
Gilbert said the general solution to this problem is this:
“I have to create some sort of protective psychological construct...find some way to have a safe distance between me...and what the reaction to that writing is going to be.”
I think that’s somewhat true, but I don’t think it needs to be a huge, elaborate process. The real solution is to search within yourself for ways to let that fear go, and chances are you will be left holding on to the love you have for your work. Which is the most important thing of all.