Elizabeth Gilbert (TED) | A new way to think about creativity

How well do we ever really know our own minds? Given the complexity of the brain, it might not be such a crazy notion to think of various aspects of the self as entities with their own whims, wishes, and wills beyond our conscious control. Doing so can help us take a third person point of view of ourselves and literally see things from a more objective perspective. Gilbert uses this approach to describe how we can cultivate healthier relationships with our own creative genius.

[In] ancient Greece and ancient Rome — people did not happen to believe that creativity came from human beings back then, OK? People believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source, for distant and unknowable reasons. The Greeks famously called these divine attendant spirits of creativity “daemons.”…The Romans had the same idea, but they called that sort of disembodied creative spirit a genius.

So brilliant — there it is, right there, that distance that I’m talking about — that psychological construct to protect you from the results of your work….If your work was brilliant, you couldn’t take all the credit for it, everybody knew that you had this disembodied genius who had helped you. If your work bombed, not entirely your fault, you know?

And this is how people thought about creativity in the West for a really long time. And then the Renaissance came and everything changed….And it’s the beginning of rational humanism, and people started to believe that creativity came completely from the self of the individual.

And I got to tell you, I think that was a huge error. You know, I think that allowing somebody, one mere person to believe that he or she is like, the vessel, you know, like the font and the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable, eternal mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile, human psyche.


Elizabeth Gilbert (TED) | A new way to think about creativity


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