I stumbled on this today, and, uh… whoa.
You should really watch the talk, because it is beautifully compelling (builds slowly at first, but keep watching). But the main takeaway is… maybe we should think about creativity differently. Maybe we should stop seeing it as something totally internal to the person creating it, and go back to the concept of incredible artistic creation coming from the channelling of an external force–a muse, the divine, etc.
Because that’s a little less pressure, right? We all know that creativity/inspiration is temperamental, and while this doesn’t mean there is no such thing as talent or skill or craft, it does mean that we should maybe accept that whether a creative endeavor ‘works’… is maybe not all on us. Maybe by accepting that we are not in full control, creating will become less tortuous. Maybe.
What Elizabeth Gilbert takes from all this is that her job is not to sit down and produce genius. Her job is to show up and write.
I think I have three different posts about my personal history with and anguish over writing…. sitting in my drafts folder. It’s a sensitive subject for me, and I have a hard time talking about it without feeling like I’m just whining, or that I’m making a claim on writer-dom that I do not deserve to make.
But long before I was a scientist, I journaled and wrote poetry and essays and sometimes fiction… and that was the first thing I ever aspired to be. A writer. In fact, being a novelist was my first career ambition.
I gave up on that idea a long time ago because for years, showing other people anything I wrote filled me with overwhelming terror. Because I was so utterly terrified of people’s judgement, because they wouldn’t be just judging my writing–they’d be judging me. I identified with what I wrote so strongly… it was too personal to put out into the world. I didn’t use to have my current policy on openness–I was very private about many things, particularly my deepest thoughts and desires, because I was convinced that I was Bad and Weird and Wrong and that if anyone got to know me TOO well, they’d hate me. I also was, and still am to some degree, a terrible perfectionist, and was sure that the small flaws in my work would reveal me to everyone for what I really was… stupid and worthless.
And though lots of therapy and time has helped, that anxiety about people reading what I write, and my over-identification with my creative work… those things got to feeling very hardwired over the years. To this day, I have a hard time physically sitting in the same room as someone who is reading something I wrote, and tend to do so shaking.
I may always have that anxiety, to an extent. It’s only natural, really, to be concerned about what people think about you, and I just seem to be biologically predisposed to being wound tighter than most. But I’ve slowly gotten better about not letting it control me, and I want to keep getting better.
And I think one thing that might help is not feeling so damn responsible for what I write, particularly in the case of the more creative things. I think I need to focus less on Being Amazing, and more on just… showing up.