Another of my favorite authors spoke to me recently. This time through a TED talk recommended by a friend. Elizabeth Gilbert spoke about creative genius and the pressure on artists placed by society’s idea of where genius originates. Her premise is that creative people need to release themselves of the burden of producing great works all of the time. Often times, artists are frozen by pressure. “What if’s” scream so loudly that writers can no longer hear inspiration.
I’ve been writing about this phenomenon for months now. This fear of failure. The fear of not being validated. The fear of rejection. What if no one likes my work? What if no one reads it? What would that mean?
Am I a writer only if there is a reader?
Genius has many definitions.
To the mother, Swan Lake was never more brilliantly performed, than by her own young daughter.
Priceless works of art are displayed on refrigerators and young artists write essays for audiences of one.
Children create for the joy of expression with no inhibition and little need for validation.
Over time this changes.
The artist within us begins to grow silent in the absence of approval.
Only the creative spirit strong enough to silence the critic survives.
Had Steinbeck’s works been lost would they have been any less brilliant? If the first person that read his essays had told him they were no good, would he have stopped writing? How many sketches and paintings done by the Masters never made it into public view? Recently my mother was wandering through a flea market in England when she stumbled across a small sketch in a broken frame. Unsigned and discarded, nevertheless the image spoke to her and she purchased it. Later she learned the little sketch was an original Matisse. Had mom not been drawn to this piece of art and taken it home to frame would its value have been any less?
What defines creative genius and who among us is qualified to make this determination? What role does opinion play and what value do we assign it? Ultimately, what do we care? Going back to Steinbeck, I would imagine that no opinion could have caused him to stop writing. Do any of us believe that Picasso, Monet, Warhol, or Banksy would have stopped creating in the absence of public approval?
Creativity is genius expressing itself. For the artist to deny the overwhelming passion to create is to deny the expression of Self. There comes a time when suppression is no longer possible, when as a child, it no longer matters what or if anyone thinks about the created result but only that creation occurs.