Elizabeth Gilbert: A new way to think about creativity

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“Eat, Pray, Love” Author 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.

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137 COMMENTS

  1. This was my least favorite TED talk ever. Here point of asking, “why not?” when arguing for a divine muse is maddening to my rational mind. As I understand it, her argument is that inspirational fairies don’t exist, but we should pretend they do because it will comfort us as artists. This is the thinking of a four year old with an imaginary friend.

  2. Also, it makes the argument that somehow creative success is “divinely ordained” by forces outside your control. Sure sometimes the crappy pop music of our culture makes me think she might be right, but no one will ever convince me that man’s success in the creative realm is anything less than a combination of his talents and most importantly his will to work unrelentingly towards his goals.

  3. The woman is the definition of nagging. I haven’t read her book but I couldn’t watch the movie – it was that bad! I thought, maybe, they screwed up the movie but it looks like, based on her pretentious and shallow TT, she’s nothing but a sham.

  4. what if we can just accept ourselves, our results and efforts as they are? whether or not we are well received, the public loves our work e.t.c. ? maybe then we won’t feel so bad if our work bombs out

  5. Being a dumb whore isn’t genius. How many men actually read her nonsense and was impressed by it?…. *crickets chirping* gotta think this woman wanting to divorce you would be like winning one’s own private lottery.

  6. Well I don’t know who she is, I’ve never read her book, never seen her, never seen her on tv or in the movies, but I really like this video.

  7. Better simply to give the thumbs down vote and flag the ad hom comment for the trolling spam that it is. Replying to this type of trolling complies with the purpose of their vulgar comments.

  8. lol all these dumb idiots taking her literally. lol, she is just demonstrating a tricks and stories to help coping with stresses of artist. I am not an artist but this was a great talk and I agree on her views.

  9. I stopped watching this video after 6 minutes, this lady is too insecure about herself that I am almost convinced she will be a one hit wonder. I remind the words of Abraham Maslow who asked his students who of them was going to be great in his chosen field. Nobody raised hands so he said: “If not you then who?”. She does not believe in herself so I don’t believe in her. What are we listeners, her shrink?

  10. I love this, she is so right. my own creativity was cut off in school. I dont
    think I will ever write again. bless you hopefully its not too late for the youngsters.

  11. @ angelmtza
    true, but you have to remember that bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks. Ignore her insecurity and extract the useful information.

  12. She’s talking about inherent emotional risks which are involved in creativity. I’d like to meet one confident human when talking about inherent emotional risks… I’m sure you’re perfect though. I’m sure you never falter.

  13. Dear, there are emotional risks in ANY activity that is worth something, I litigate in my country and have faced great risks many times, of course you can feel fear, but the best way to lose is letting insecurity inside you. I also invest and believe me markets are not for the weak of heart. When you falter keep pushing ahead. Napoleon said the greatest battle I face is with myself everyday. Perfect? Of course not, perfectible? You bet. As Nike’s motto says: Just do it!

  14. But that’s what she’s doing. She may be fearful but she’s still up there speaking live about her insecurities & about emotional fallout, that’s heavy stuff & it’s not always comfortable to speak about, but all humans feel this at one point or another. The least you could have done was given her the courtesy of listening all the way through to see what it was she was really speaking about, instead you judged her very quickly & shut her off. Why? Because you were uncomfortable with her demeanor?

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  16. You’re showing your lack of civility by insulting the people that take a genuine interest in her story and your lack of intelligence by not proof reading your own three sentences. Do you feel superior now that you’ve put others down and figured out her whole life story from a 20 minute talk? You’re saying the idiots are idiots because they take her literally, but you agree with her views and liked the talk? Grow up and be constructive, not destructive.

  17. This chick is an exciting, brilliant, funny mule, and I’d love to sit and talk with her. No, I don’t read chick books and I’ve been steering around the movie title, “Eat, Pray, Love” since I began seeing it. But I’m sure both the book and movie. Many people would steer around my writing and thought, but many people won’t and many new friends will find me. With all the abusive trolls who are allowed here I’d never open myself to getting thrashed. But she’s definitely a friend.

  18. All our thoughts are made possible by every single thinking human who came before. In this sense your ideas are limited to the time in which you exist. Unbound by imagination, but limited in the way you might be able to test it or for that matter by a civilization that suppresses original thought. But this also gives a sense of clarity in that you can then know specifically what can be explored uniquely in your time & at no other point in past history. Creativity freed, no superstition needed.

  19. The point being that your ideas aren’t just your own & that you aren’t just the sole responsible person for them, you are however responsible for choosing to present them. But this individuality that people regard themselves in as if they had invented the world & then some needs to be flushed, hard thing to swallow for the ego, but invigorating for the process & a liberation from the anxiety she talks about.

  20. Genius derived from Genie the Arabic word Jinn which basically means demon..
    So just to explain that the cultures basically believed the the same entities but a Jinn can either be good or evil…

  21. Everything about the idea of no longer taking responsibility for yourself, and trying to externalize that responsibility to some nebulous “being” or god or some imaginary construct, because you are too weak to deal with your shit, is repugnant in every way.

  22. Everything about the idea of no longer taking responsibility for yourself, and trying to externalize that responsibility to some nebulous “being” or god or some imaginary construct, because you are too weak to deal with your shit, is repugnant in every way.

  23. Daemon, Angel, Djinn, Genius, they all carry messages from the Divine. Those messages could be “good” or “bad”, it’s not the messenger who gets the message, it’s not the messenger who creates the message.

  24. Because these creative phenomenons are an expression of pattern seeking that is closely related to schizophrenia. I believe there was a TED talk on that: /watch?v=8T_jwq9ph8k

  25. Why can’t people like you become alcoholics and kill themselves instead of those who heavily experience and actually share their emotions?

  26. The most pretentious TED talk ive ever watched. serious or not this was ridiculous. OH MY GENIUS IS SUCH A BURDEN!!! 1. Get better stand-up material. or 2. get over yourself.

  27. Wonderful! Her honesty and eagerness to explore (along with a lack of ego) are what makes her interesting, which is why she was invited im sure

  28. I like her message, and the idea of “letting go” by not putting so much pressure on oneself. It’s great that she’s telling people not to think that every work must be their best, because that creates unnecessary pressure on the individual, preventing us truly making greatness. What I’m not so fond of is the idea that we shouldn’t see our work, or the work of a “genius”, as manmade. I think we should embrace the humanity with which art is created and be in awe of that, not some unknown spirit.

  29. And it’s very obvious that you did not understand what she was saying then. She never said that you should credit some unknown spirit. She merely presented the psychological benefits of attributing internal characteristics to an external character and thereby alleviating some of the anxiety an artist can naturally bring on themselves.

  30. Lol it is very obvious that you did not understand what she was saying at all. So, why don’t you take your own advice, apply it back on yourself, and rewatch the video UNTIL you can make a comment with a logical deduction showing that you FULLY understand the ‘connotations’ and implications of her speech. Otherwise, you’ll stay the irresponsibly ignorant commentator you currently are.

  31. Great talk. The people who are criticising this are entitled, but I think you are missing the point. This is one just anecdote, and there are many others we can look to for inspiration. At no point does she suggest this should be the only way of viewing the creative pursuit. Those who have read the book will know she is extremely aware of her privilege in life AND she maintains a great sense of humour. Well done Liz Gilbert, and your book is incredible too.

  32. …MARRY ME!
    What a beautifully “normal” divine, lifescented but astonishing inspiring artist of the words!
    Lots of blessings to your tongue..and all it’s around it. (_/\_)

  33. i hate the way she looks. i mean when you come to speak to a crowd of people, aren’t you supposed to dress up a little? and do something to your hair…what the hell?

  34. Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Freddie Mercury, Whitney etc etc etc…
    we’v got a loooooong example list of what Liz is tryin’ explain here.

    The human being is not ready to take so much “devotion” or “credit” in high levels for something that she/he did

  35. 16:36 Ummm, Muslims (and Arab non-muslims as well) say “Allah” when they see something amusing or feel really good about something, but in no way are they suggesting that “that person is God”. Good lecture though.

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  37. @tangycheezexists you just have to look at your name to realise what an ignorant moron you are

  38. @cwnwntz b you re right. who can believe it even you showed this. and i can suggest u , i havent expect that i will get a cheque of $350 for surfing internet. i found it here => bit.ly/SfmaIO?=sysohja

  39. It’s a little disturbing how even TED talks chronically keep underrepresenting minority women.

    Basic progressive policy is to prioritize the underprivileged, yet the very women in society who suffer the most from the pressure of the religious right and who lack social mobility most often are time and again sidelined in favor of upper class Western white females.

  40. The essence of creativity has nothing to do with success or reaction of others. suffering and suicides in literature and arts are not related to success and worry about the artistic work. It’s much deeper and relates to human life place/relationship with the universe. This presentation is based on a superficial new age consumistic fairy tale approach to creativity.

  41. She’s just talking about one alternative to get the internal critic out of the way prior to having the creative material. The internal critic is not helpful during this process.

  42. ◆◇◆◇◆いきなりの書き込み失礼します。お金にお困りの方、いらっしゃいますか?実は宝くじで100,000,000円当選したのですが、その使い道に困ってます…馬鹿みたいな話ですが事実です。単刀直入に申しますとこの当選金をどなたかにお譲りしたいと思ってます。既にお譲りが済んだ方もいますが、少額でのお譲りが多かったため結構な額が残ってます…本日中にお譲りする事も可能なので遠慮せず仰って下さい。出来る限りご希望の金額を、と考えております。もし、お受け取りになりたい方いましたら、サイト内ですと書き込みが削除されます場合が御座いますので、こちらの→【http://437.jp】リンクより、スムーズにお話をすすめる事ができますので、どうぞお早めのご連絡をお待ちしております。◆◇◆◇◆

  43. ◆◇◆◇◆いきなりの書き込み失礼します。お金にお困りの方、いらっしゃいますか?実は宝くじで100,000,000円当選したのですが、その使い道に困ってます…馬鹿みたいな話ですが事実です。単刀直入に申しますとこの当選金をどなたかにお譲りしたいと思ってます。既にお譲りが済んだ方もいますが、少額でのお譲りが多かったため結構な額が残ってます…本日中にお譲りする事も可能なので遠慮せず仰って下さい。出来る限りご希望の金額を、と考えております。もし、お受け取りになりたい方いましたら、サイト内ですと書き込みが削除されます場合が御座いますので、こちらの→【http://437.jp】リンクより、スムーズにお話をすすめる事ができますので、どうぞお早めのご連絡をお待ちしております。◆◇◆◇◆

  44. ◆◇◆◇◆いきなりの書き込み失礼します。お金にお困りの方、いらっしゃいますか?実は宝くじで100,000,000円当選したのですが、その使い道に困ってます…馬鹿みたいな話ですが事実です。単刀直入に申しますとこの当選金をどなたかにお譲りしたいと思ってます。既にお譲りが済んだ方もいますが、少額でのお譲りが多かったため結構な額が残ってます…本日中にお譲りする事も可能なので遠慮せず仰って下さい。出来る限りご希望の金額を、と考えております。もし、お受け取りになりたい方いましたら、サイト内ですと書き込みが削除されます場合が御座いますので、こちらの→【http://437.jp】リンクより、スムーズにお話をすすめる事ができますので、どうぞお早めのご連絡をお待ちしております。◆◇◆◇◆

  45. Actually “Olé” is a Portuguese word, Spain adopted it! But the history behind it is the same except that it wasn’t Spain but Portugsl

  46. The other day, the cadenza I was writing wasn’t happening. I finally turned to the corner of the room and said, “Listen, I appreciate all the stuff you give me. Every day it is something new. But I need this right now, or I am gonna lose it. Now, I’m going for a walk, and when I come back, I really need you to get your shit together and help me. Please, I need it. I’m doing all I can.”

    Came back, sat down, BOOM, piece was finished. Printing it next week. Premiere in March.

    I was so grateful.

  47. I wonder what she would say to the notion that perhaps it is suffering that informs creativity rather than following it. David Foster Wallace was the quintessential tortured artist and his works proceeded with his bipolarity and cynicism. It is with these conditions that culminated into his poignant works, his success.

  48. All Art is a gift of the Holy Spirit. When this light shines through the mind of a musician, it manifests itself in beautiful harmonies. Again, shining through the mind of a poet, it is seen in fine poetry and poetic prose. When the Light of the Sun of Truth inspires the mind of a painter, he produces marvellous pictures. These gifts are fulfilling their highest purpose, when showing forth the praise of God.

  49. As a artist, I somehow can’t relate at all. It was never in question for me whether or not I could do it, it was just a question of “how” I can achieve something and how much time I need to invest. Finding the answers to these questions is often very hard due to the complexity of the topic but always possible. In the end being an artist is all about solving problems.

  50. You’re allowed to disagree. But why? What did she say that you think was wrong?
    Personally, I relate to everything she said. I get it, because I’ve felt the same way. I know how it feels to have creativity seem to emanate from some other source than myself, and I know how it feels to doggedly work at being creative even when the work doesn’t flow. Both are important and wonderful parts of the work.

  51. it is called the ‘collective unconscious’. Read some CG Jung, really helps a great deal.

  52. Well, thats why I was so vauge and ended my sentence with a question mark. I disagree with the first part about shifting creativity over to something else. That just doesn’t make any sense since we don’t live in the middle ages anymore. Second I don’t see my inspiration or creativity rising from some mysterious source nor do I want it to. It’s discipline and experience for me.

  53. Oh, I totally agree that the ultimate real source of all creativity is our own selves. But sometimes the felicity and serendipity with which creativity flows seems almost magical, or spiritual, or seems uncannily effortless as though we are dipping from a river of abundance far beyond our own (normal) abilities. Many people would call those moments “holy inspiration”. I like her metaphor for calling it an external genius. It helps remove some burden to always be that way.

  54. It is the speakers’ words that are meant to be focused on, not their clothes. They are plain for a reason. “Prettifying” themselves would only serve to detract and distract from the purpose of being on stage in the first place.

  55. Obviously the person who made the comment would care as well as people who would want someone to dress up.

  56. Does anyone know of any resources or references to study what she speaks of with supernatural influences in Art, music, and literature?

  57. ◆◇◆◇◆いきなりの書き込み失礼します。お金にお困りの方、いらっしゃいますか?実は宝くじで100,000,000円当選したのですが、その使い道に困ってます…馬鹿みたいな話ですが事実です。単刀直入に申しますとこの当選金をどなたかにお譲りしたいと思ってます。既にお譲りが済んだ方もいますが、少額でのお譲りが多かったため結構な額が残ってます…本日中にお譲りする事も可能なので遠慮せず仰って下さい。出来る限りご希望の金額を、と考えております。もし、お受け取りになりたい方いましたら、サイト内ですと書き込みが削除されます場合が御座いますので、こちらの→【http://437.jp】リンクより、スムーズにお話をすすめる事ができますので、どうぞお早めのご連絡をお待ちしております。◆◇◆◇◆

  58. ◆◇◆◇◆いきなりの書き込み失礼します。お金にお困りの方、いらっしゃいますか?実は宝くじで100,000,000円当選したのですが、その使い道に困ってます…馬鹿みたいな話ですが事実です。単刀直入に申しますとこの当選金をどなたかにお譲りしたいと思ってます。既にお譲りが済んだ方もいますが、少額でのお譲りが多かったため結構な額が残ってます…本日中にお譲りする事も可能なので遠慮せず仰って下さい。出来る限りご希望の金額を、と考えております。もし、お受け取りになりたい方いましたら、サイト内ですと書き込みが削除されます場合が御座いますので、こちらの→【http://437.jp】リンクより、スムーズにお話をすすめる事ができますので、どうぞお早めのご連絡をお待ちしております。◆◇◆◇◆

  59. wheres the idiocy in that? Why is it that society think that every formal occasion has to has some sort of dress code?

  60. Elusive….maybe…I think that it’s our desperation to create something great and our fear of not being able to create this great work makes creativity elusive. If only we can relax, when we don’t struggle, when we let it go and think that it does not matter then we can always find this creative inspiration….

  61. Yes, and your grasp of the English language is staggering. If you’re objecting to his choice of words, do so, but be aware that your own word choice (“idiot”, for the record) speaks more to the content of his comment than the wording.

    She was great, by the way. I thought she was dressed very appropriately and loved how she approached the topic.

  62. If you enjoyed this, you might like the 20 minute talk by the novelist and Williams College professor Jim Shepard discussing imagination and creativity. Just search in YouTube for Williams Talking: Jim Shepard.

  63. I agree in spirit of this but not that the solution is in ‘Spirits’, Fairies’ or ‘Geniuses’. I think the solution to this lies it our acceptance of the illusion of independent free will and the acknowledgment that it is ‘our subconscious’ much of which we are not responsible for and who’s function we are most defiantly not aware off that creates much of who we are and what we do. This is a way of removing ego and still be true to the reality of the world we live in.

  64. Yes, but WHY did her Eat Pray Love book become a mega international bestseller??? Because it was an exercise in supreme narcissism and verbosity with very little to offer. It was, at its core, empty. Inward looking/seeking. Just like she’s talking way too much here on the stage. I think she – and that book – reflect the void in a lot of people’s lives today. A huge spiritual and moral emptiness that is America now, caused by the Bush years and other factors. The title was brilliant.

  65. Gilbert is a thunderous train of air. Sorry. Can’t stand this woman. She talks way too much and offers nothing.

  66. interesting how the philosophy of magick works it’s principals in a very similar way. the conscious individual externalises his thoughts into an overt ritual where the outer mind comes into unity with the consciousness.

  67. But seriously. I agree in so many respects, but c’mon. Sure, we’re all consumers (of everything, but specifically of written material for the sake of the discussion), but the more cynical and critical I get about shit work, I remind myself I’m not much of a producer. Are you? What have you written? Go easy girl.

  68. Many people call my baby Albert or Einstein!! :oD

    Well i believe my baby is a prodigy baby!! he is 3 and he knows… all the multiplication tables, the periodic tables elements , all the countries in the world !! USA states !!! he knows how read since he was 12 months!! he knows how count from 1 to millions already!! and he knows more that 5 language !! if u dont believe me check his videos out! u wont believe your eye.

  69. When Armstrong went to the moon, people said his greatest accomplishment was behind him and he would never do anything that great again. He took the stress well i think. He was great.

  70. The things she says even hurt herself… that’s just jacked that’s just fucked dude.

  71. and? you’re still going to speak in front of people. i think you should not look like you just woke up and threw on your home clothes. whatever.

  72. The more I create, the more I become convinced that there is something very, VERY odd happening at the point that the pen touches the paper.
    The artistic ‘fugue’ state definitely appears to have parallels to ritualistic possession, and I’d love to study the phenomena in depth.

  73. I’m not a fan of her work at all. However, I find the method she proposes in dealing with the part of the creative process that is inherent self-criticism and doubt (usually both the result of pressure, whether it come from an external source or not) quite helpful. Mainly in the sense that it requires a moment of self-reflection and gives the artist reassurance that, even if things don’t go as smoothly as anticipated, there is some motivation to continue the project.

  74. i tough i was the only one appearing in a public with this type of hairstyle.
    i was wrong.

  75. You aren’t and will never be a genius if you don’t have the urge to resist conformity.

    Genius isn’t a choice.

  76. She’s not looking like that to me. And the number of negative votes to your post tell that you’re the only one who thinks so anyway.

  77. If you enjoyed this, you might like the 20 minute talk by the novelist and Williams College professor Jim Shepard discussing imagination and creativity. Just search in YouTube for Williams Talking: Jim Shepard.

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