Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.
The author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert has thought long and hard about some large topics. Her next fascination: genius, and how we ruin it
I have dreamed of being a writer since I was six years old when I tried to write a story on my mother’s old Underwood typewriter. I didn’t get very far then, or with later attempts. But this Ted talk by Elizabeth Gilbert reminded me of a time when I was working hard to find my writing voice.
It was in a small, and overcrowded, downtown Toronto bachelor apartment that I met my muse.
To begin, I have to confess to certain shortcomings in the arena of the domestic arts. When I moved in to this apartment I fell in love with the huge window taking up most of one wall and immediately stationed my old wooden desk beneath it. As a result of obstacle…and a little avoidance…the window accumulated a fine layer of dust that went unnoticed until one memorable day.
When I opened my door one late afternoon, the sunshine shone through my window lighting up the dust from behind. However, it was not this glaring need for a cleaning that stopped me in my tracks, but the face looking back at me from that dust. My apartment was on the third floor, so the face was not human or animal, nor was not one of my friendly pigeons stopping by for a snack.
Three quarters of the way up the window, overlooking my desk, four perfect smudges formed a face (eyes, nose, mouth) looking in on me. No other smudges showed anywhere in the neglected layer of dust. One of my friends felt this face presented a menacing glare, but I never felt unnerved by its appearance, only delighted.
Given Elizabeth Gilbert’s comments about the ancient Greek belief that creativity came from a separate entity or “daimon,” it is ironic that I called my new acquaintance “my demon muse.”
While I still did not dare to submit any of my writing, I do remember this period as one of my most creative…. And, yes, I did eventually clean my window, but I worked around my ghostly companion, so it could continue to whisper in my ear.