Four years ago, I was lucky enough to hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak in Baltimore. She is a funny, creative, and brilliant woman, who I have come to love more and more over the years. My love for her obviously began after reading Eat, Pray, Love and continued each book after that. Immediately after hearing Gilbert speak in Baltimore, I had to follower her on Facebook (I wasn’t involved with Twitter much until 2012). She posted a link this morning to a TED Talk from March of this year. Before listening to that talk, though, I had to go back to her talk in 2009. Both are fantastic, but I wanted to highlight the talk from 2009 because it describes how I currently feel as a writer.
Now that my undergraduate career has come to an end, I have a lot more free time than expected. I have been using this free time to blog, rearrange my room, and (finally) start my children’s/teen novel. This novel will be nothing like the Twilight series, so don’t cringe when you hear the word “teen.” I will dish out specifics when I am further into the book. As of now, I am struggling with what Gilbert describes in her 2009 TED Talk… anxiety. I am at the point where I need to create a psychological barrier between me writing and my anxiety of what the reaction will be to what I have written. It sounds like it would make a person frantic or insane. I am proof that it can make you a little manic.
How does one deal with all the trouble that can come from being a writer? Anxiety, fear, writer’s block (the worst), an overload of creativity, or even disappointment (in what you have written or what happens to it after you submit it) all take over your mind. I am typically a pleasant person who aims to find the positives in everything. Yet, when I am writing, I turn into someone else. Perhaps I should change my name when writing. What Gilbert also speaks about in her TED Talk is overcoming that anxiety and she does this by understanding other cultures and their perceptions of creativity. She chose to focus on Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome by defining what they believed was an ambiguous and creative person: a genius.
Now, Americans would define genius as a person who is incredibly brilliant and talented in a particular field (Bill Gates, for example). I am not calling all writers or creative people the American definition of genius. I agree with Gilbert when she says that a genius is a divine spirit that follows you. If you write a bad piece… blame it on that damn genius again. Claim that your genius isn’t “feelin’ it” today, haha. Gilbert proceeds to discuss the idea of being a genius versus having a genius. Today, a person can be a genius, not have a genius. Changing this way of believing (although it seems more rational) has caused people to become insane or manic. This belief “warps and distorts egos,” and the “pressure of all of this has been killing off our artists for the last 500 years,” as Gilbert says in her talk.
Who is stopping a person from believing that they have a genius? I know I am not a genius. I am intelligent and creative, but I am no Bill Gates. I do have a genius, though. I have the ability to create something that could impact a child or teenager so greatly, that they will write me a letter one day to discuss that. When I read A Fault In Our Stars (spoiler alert?) a few weeks ago, I loved how passionately Hazel felt when she found out she could writer the author of An Imperial Affliction. She was impacted by the novel and was thrilled to tell the author. I want that for my future readers. I will not get there by thinking I need to be a genius. Thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert, I now understand that one does not need to be a genius, you need to have one. I do. She just is having an off week for writing. We will prevail, though, because all good writers should.
Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert, for your inspiration. I will continue to share your incredible work and I look forward to reading your next piece of work in the future.