Tonight my sister-in-law JT sent me a link to Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on creativity, and when I got done cyber-stalking an author I’m jealous of and then messing around on Facebook, I gave it a listen. Gilbert proposes that instead of thinking of ourselves as island artists who are solely responsible for our work, we should envision creative spirits who flit in and out, periodically inspiring us. Maybe true genius isn’t interior, but exterior. In ancient Greece, when a daemon visited a writer in the night, he took some of the heat off the writer’s sensitive ego. Whether the finished product turned out brilliant or embarrassing, the writer himself was only an accessory to the creative act. To quote Liz Gilbert, your original work is accomplished not by you alone, but also by “the divine cockeyed genius assigned to your case.”
Because I just finished Betsy Lerner’s book The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers, the emotional fragility of the average artist has been on my mind. The more neurotic I feel and the more erratic my sense of self-worth, the more I want to rebel against these stereotypical character traits. In Lerner’s book (which I loved, by the way), authors are delicate creatures who frequently need to be coddled and reassured. But according to Gilbert, if we could just reconceptualize our creative bursts of energy as generous fairies who fly in and out of our windows to feed us clever lines and plot points, we wouldn’t be such unrelenting egomaniacs. Sounds good to me!
Although my fairies are stupider and have a weaker vocabulary than most peoples’, I am still hopeful that I can bribe them with the spare change I keep next to my computer. But where do my fairies get their ideas? Maybe there’s another whole tier of fairies, higher-up fairies, who hate my fairies because they’re ugly and dumb, and so the dominant fairies stopped talking to them in middle school and refuse to share any of the hot brainstorms going around. So with or without fairies, I am basically screwed. If the devil stopped whispering in my ear every five minutes, I’d be completely out of the writing game.
Originally I wanted to blog tonight about Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s pornography article in The Atlantic, and to congratulate my friend Lang Fisher on the success of The Onion’s new show, but now Jesus is telling me to get in bed with my husband. Sweet dreams.