OK creative people, raise your hands if you've ever felt crushed under the burden of making something beautiful, important, profound. I've been there before. The fear of creating something incredible out of the poor stuff of your being is downright paralyzing.
Now who has also felt that frenzied blur of elation as the train of inspiration plows through you? I can't tell you the number of times that I've looked up from a canvas after feverishly racing to capture some fleeting thought and wondered where the hours went (or why I am so hungry/need to pee so badly ;)
|painting by Emilio Valerio D’ Ospina|
If you answered yes to either of those questions, then you need to go watch this TED talk by author Elizabeth Gilbert right now. I'm not kidding. I'll wait.
I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of Eat, Pray, Love, but this talk is so good that I scribbled every single one of her words down in my sketch book this morning. She talks about the necessity of forming psychological constructs to protect yourself from the narcissism and despair that accompanies being an artist. She argues that it is just "a smidge too much responsibility" to put the burden of genius on one human psyche, and explains "the utter, maddening, capriciousness" of creativity in terms of the ancient Romans' understanding of an external genius who helped shape the outcome of an artist's work.
Her anecdotes of poets and musicians' brushes with the muse are hilarious and inspiring. She tells stories about dancers becoming so enraptured in the spirit of their dance on the African plains that the people around them cried out "Allah, Allah, Allah!" (These people where crying out "It is God!" but the meaning has morphed over the years into the "Olay, Olya, Olya" that we yell at big soccer matches.) In other words, we are not alone. This 'genius' is not ours with its glories and burdens, but rather "on lone from some magnificent source."
|image from here|
Josh Ritter's little song, Long Shadows, has been on repeat in my studio lately and I wasn't sure why until today. After listening to Gilbert's talk I know that it doesn't matter if I'm "afraid of the dark." God is not. I am just the vessel to hold his glory and if I keep showing up to do my work, he just might let me do that sometimes. OLAY! Now go make something!