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Ted Talk, Elizabeth Gilbert: Your Elusive Creative Genius

Writer of best selling book, “Eat, Pray, Love,” Elizabeth Gilbert begins her TED talk discussing the peculiarity she felt when people would come up and ask if she was afraid of living in the shadows of her own major success from her most recently written book. She answers with a yes.

“What is it, specifically, about creative ventures that seems to make us really nervous about each other’s mental health in a way that other careers kind of don’t do?”

The sense of security people feel from more technical jobs, such as chemical engineering, is what Gilbert uses to compare with the reputation people with creative careers have of being “enormously mentally unstable.” She further states that people are desensitized by the notion that “creativity and suffering are somehow inherently linked” because of the anxiety creative people have about the success and failure of their work.

She then points back at history, from Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, and focuses on the cultural transition from viewing ‘genius,’ or good creative work, as something that was bestowed upon people by a higher power, or divine beings, to an idea sprouting from the Renaissance that ‘genius’ is something that comes from a single person.

The former, Gilbert explains, was a psychological construct that protected creative people from the results of their own work. The ancient artist was protected, for instance, by too much narcissism. If the work was bad, it wasn’t entirely the artist’s fault because they believed they had this creative agent that helped them with their work. Gilbert explains that the latter, the contemporary way of thinking about creativity, created pressure for artists and has literally killed most of them these past 500 years.

Gilbert then asks the audience why we can’t think of creativity as the former instead—as this radical notion that people ‘have’ a genius guiding them through a creative process, instead of individual people regarded as ‘being’ the genius. She has tried to find a way to relate to the phenomena of having an idea in which we can’t track the source “to not make us lose our minds,” but to actually keep us sane.

She proposes, and vouches for, this way of thinking about the creative process—which is instead of feeling anxiety whenever you can’t ‘catch’ that creative thought and immediately write it down, treating that sudden creative thought as some other, detached, form of yourself that you can communicated with and send off into the world or to another person to catch if you are not in the most opportune situation to catch it yourself.

For marketers, business owners, or anyone working in a creative field, finding innovative ways to capture the attention of an audience is difficult to come upon or create. Especially for Jenna Sanchez markets in the unique and liberal San Francisco Bay Area, being able to captivate a large part of this diverse population can be a daunting task.

As a fellow professional working in a creative career field, Gilbert encourages all to “do your job anyway,” to not be afraid. And she applauds you “just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up” for the job.

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