Via Justine Larbalestier, Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on genius, inspiration, and “mulish” work. It’s a beautifully presented talk, though I’m not sure that I agree with her final premise of talent as a kind of transitory gift. I do agree, and I’m pretty sure I’ve gone on about this before, that the post-Romantic (Gilbert says post-Renaissance) conception of the artist has led to an absurd cultural insistence that all writers be damaged in order to create. (See this great New Yorker article on writer’s block and the invention thereof.) But I also think that placing “genius” or “inspiration” entirely outside oneself is a little sad. We are human, and we do create beautiful things. Inspiration is the work of our brains, and that’s worth celebrating, even if we don’t understand how it functions.
But I do agree with both Justine and Elizabeth Gilbert that the most important thing you can do as a writer is keep doing your work, or, as Justine says, make it the best book you can.
Now I’m off to make the best dissertation chapter outline I can. I hope.