In a TED Talk titled “Nurturing Creativity,” Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love, explores the creative process.  She also explores the word genius.  We usually associate that word with a rare person who is somehow marginalized from society and set under a profound light.  However, Gilbert argues that instead of being a genius, we all have a genius that inspires us.

This genius is a type of muse, which was commonly referred to among ancient Greeks.  A muse can be a spirit, a goddess, or even a real person.  A muse is a source of knowledge or insight. Gilbert mentions that Socrates, the great philosopher, had a “daemon” that occasionally popped by to lend some inspiration.

American poet and author Ruth Stone uses a beautiful metaphor to describe the creative process.  An idea is like a storm, rolling over the hills and heading toward the first writer it sees. If the writer can get to a pen and paper fast enough, the storm will run right through her and spill onto the paper.  If the writer doesn’t get there fast enough, the storm will swell through the writer and search for the next one.

That storm is the muse.  From time to time, the muse enters us suddenly.  We have to use these moments to our advantage and let the muse conduct the writing.  This inspiration is precious and unseen.  It sneaks up on you and it is your job to be ready to use it. When the muse decides to take a leave of absence, or even hibernate, the writer still has a duty to show up for work.  (This “genius” is known for being flaky).

This should ease some writers’ doubt and anxiety.  A common fear among writers is that their work is not as good as former work, or that it is not original.  Now you have an excuse.  Just tell yourself that the muse was absent a lot.  The muse is there to praise but also to blame.  So just keep writing. You will produce some “bad” writing and then you will have surges of great writing, and you have to appreciate those moments.  You have to filter out the bad to get the good.  If you lose inspiration, just remember the muse will come around.  Just be patient.

-Sarah Diedrick

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