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Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity

April 25, 2009

This is worth your time, especially if you are a creative. Gilbert, author of Eat, Love, Pray, discusses the need to rework the destinies of creatives of the past 500 years. So many successful artists enter rapid decline after their greatest life work. How can we rework that pattern in ourselves–emotional and mental downwardness after a great achievement. Gilbert suggests that we need something that creates a safe psychological distance between artist and art. She explores the daemons and geniuses of the Greco-Roman age.

What do you think? Do we need a genuius, a muse?


3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2009 6:55 pm

    Thanks! You just gave me my next topic for our Bible study on the Arts!

    “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7). This goes for any skill or “genius” or “inspiration” that we have. (See Bezalel in Ex. 31; God says, “I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.”).

    When we claim genius as our own and fail to acknowledge our dependence on God (or at least some other outside source), then we can easily become proud. And “when pride comes, then comes dishonor”, and “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” This is probably why so many post-Classical artists suffer after “their” great successes. It goes to their head. It becomes their identity. And when they realize the possibility that they may not (on their own) be able to create another success, they drown themselves in fear and self-destructive behavior.

    Healthy artists are humble artists. They realize that everything they have is a gift and that they need others for encouragement, constructive criticism and even inspiration.

    A great Christian perspective on the importance of community for creativity is “The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community” by Diana Pavlac Glyer. She also mentions how the concept of “genius” has evolved from an external form of inspiration to something we possess.

  2. April 29, 2009 8:03 am

    I’ve always enjoyed TED, a gathering of cultural elites, mostly humanist, who still manage to butt against the gospel in all areas of life and work. You can substitute her study of ancient greece with “read Paul” and the artist’s ego with “confusing your sanctification with your justification” and come to the same conclusion. We are made in the image of God and love to create, but credit for that creativity is God’s gift. Our success is part of our growth, not our reason for life.

    Good stuff.


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