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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Having a Genius vs Being a Genius

A friend of mine gave me a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert's book "Committed". Gilbert is the famous author of "Eat, Pray, Love", first a book then a movie, starring Julia Roberts. I had seen the movie, but never read the book. "Committed" takes off where the earlier book and the movie left off. Like "Eat, Pray, Love", "Committed" is also a memoir of Elizabeth Gilbert's life. At the end of "Eat, Pray, Love", Gilbert has gotten over an uncomfortable divorce, found her true self, and fallen in love with another man. The book is so much more than that, but that's roughly the plot line. In "Committed" ,Gilbert has to marry this lover in order to allow him to re-enter the United States. The very idea of marriage goes counter-intuitive to what both Gilbert and her boyfriend believe. The book is a struggle to find peace with the concept of marriage. In the telling of this story, the couple is traveling all over the world and Gilbert examines marriage from historical and cultural perspectives- in fact from almost every perspective imaginable. The book is not really an "easy read", perhaps because it is so full of anthology and non-fiction, but it is an interesting read. And it will make you think. It might make you examine your own beliefs and the relationships of your ancestors and friends. When my friend lent me the book, she was quick to tell me that this book is no where near as good as "Eat, Pray, Love", but never-the-less, an interesting read.

I read "Committed", found it very interesting, passed it on to another friend and started out this blog going to recommend it. In doing that I was searching for a picture of the cover and came across Elizabeth Gilbert's website. In doing that, I found a clip of her on Wow!! Changed my whole thought process.

In the clip Gilbert talks about how there is so much angst connected with creativity and so many creative geniuses die early, often self-inflicted, deaths. As I spread my wings in the writing world, I find that to be so true. A lot of really good authors seem to be very close to "the edge". Many have stories of depression, anxiety, abuse- you name it, from a "troubled background" perspective. Gilbert talks about how she went through anxiety wondering how she could ever top "Eat, Pray, Love" and struggled to "get over the success" and allow herself to continue to write.

Just like my friend warned, Gilbert worried about how she could ever match her early success in writing. Elizabeth Gilbert seems to have found a way around it. What she suggests is that we consider "having a genius" rather than "being a genius". She explains that by thinking of having help from an outside, higher being, alternative source, we can allow ourselves some flexibility. If we consider that we have help in our creativity, then we aren't solely responsible for our great works, but neither are we responsible for our "less than great" works. To hear this short clip go to

Personally, I think this should be our approach to life. And I don't think it applies only to the creative process unless you consider living to be a creative process. I think a lot of people are talking about this "outside source concept" and perhaps always have. It's the idea of some external direction that becomes a part of you and helps guide you through your journey. For some, this is an aspect of religion, for others like Machaelle Small Wright from Perelandra, it's nature. Maybe it doesn't matter what you call it or consider it to be. Maybe we just need to recognize and accept "it". In doing so, maybe we can allow ourselves some ability to expand and accept what comes. Maybe we are meant to engage with this genius rather than just "wait for it to come". Perhaps we should ask "it" questions, work with "it" and consider it a friend we can have a conversation with. I think a lot of people, particularly creative ones, worry about, and have been persecuted for, listening to voices. I think we should ask those voices to speak up!

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