It's a Ted Talk about creative genius by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love (which I've never read). I was a bit skeptical about watching this, but I loved it. I really loved it. (It's 19 minutes)
Her topic is genius and creativity, and how the Romans and the Greeks had a much healthier attitude toward genius and creativity than we do today.
Today, we consider genius to be inside someone, a part of them, who they are OR who they are not. Our works, the things we produce, are reflective of that inner genius and totally dependent on the person doing the creating. The creator.
The Greeks and the Romans believed differently. They believed your genius was basically a little fairy person, a gift, sitting on your shoulder, taking your work and making it into something much better than you could make it on your own. It was a collaboration, and this collaboration gave the creator some distance, some space between themselves and their final product. If the thing they created wasn't so fabulous, perhaps their Genius just didn't show up for work that day. If the thing they created was fabulous, they couldn't take all the credit either. Their Genius, this person on their shoulder, was a big part of what made it so great.
I LOVE this idea of an outer genius, independent of me. I love the idea of distance between myself and my work. When I'm having a tough writing day, it isn't entirely my fault. I'm there. I showed up. I'm doing the writing. My genius just hasn't shown up. I've done my job, and that's all I can do.
I'm going to teach my kids this philosophy.
We are so afraid to fail in our society. We want results and we want them fast. In education, we want the Silver Bullet that fixes all of our problems, and it better be something we can explain, quantify, and replicate. In writing, we want to be Stephanie Meyers (well maybe not be her...), but we want to write a book in a few short months, send it off into the world, have agents and editors beating down our door. We want to have success, and if we don't, why bother? If we don't get published, why bother? If we don't get rich, why bother?
If it is hard, if things don't work out the way we envision, why bother?
It's okay to fail. What's important is that we show up for work. We put in the time. We don't give up. That is our success. On our deathbeds, we will not regret that our works were not amazing by the world's standards of amazing, but we will regret not creating at all.
It's so incredibly important that every single day we create. And that every day, we give our children opportunities to create as well.
Watch this very, very short clip:
Notice at the end, he says when we rely on the Spirit, we have endless capacity to create. The Spirit, the outer Genius, whatever you want to call it—I believe in this concept. That we do nothing on our own, or when we do, we are missing an opportunity to collaborate with something better than us.
When I go back home to my mom's to visit, I notice how many people have beautiful yards. I love beautiful yards. My mom's yard is truly beautiful. She is a master gardener, and her yard is a unique masterpiece.
But most of these yards, while beautiful, look exactly the same. If people were really trying to create, not just trying to "Keep up with the Jones's" wouldn't there be more variety? Wouldn't this world look very, very different if we were all trying to make the world a better place using our own unique talents and our own unique sensibilities, rather than trying to impress those around us? I think our outer genius's would produce a much greater variety of gardens, for example, than relying on our inner genius's (and competing with other people's inner geniuses) allow us to.
I'm a bit obsessed with The Tinkering School. I wish there was one here my children could go to. At this school (also a summer camp), kids are given supplies and told to build. Use saws, knives, hammers, fire, dangerous things!, and go build. These are some pictures I pulled from their blog. They show examples of creations made entirely by eight and nine year olds. This is without any adult help.
And here's a link to their website if you want to check it out:
My kids are going to be building a chicken coop this weekend. We are going to get supplies (old wood pallets if we can find them), and we are going to tell them to go create what they think would be a good home for chickens. I'll take pictures and tell you how it goes!