…But, when it comes to writing…Is it logical that anybody should be expected to be afraid of the work that they feel they were put on this Earth to do. You know, and what is it specifically about creative ventures that seems to make us really nervous about each other’s mental health in a way that other careers kind of don’t do, you know?
While I didn’t particularly enjoy Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love and found this work to be the only case (ever) in which I could honestly say I considered the movie to be better than the book, I did enjoy her TED Talk about the creative genius.
I never took the time to consider this, but hearing her talk about it I realize that I do have a constant fear of my next work not measuring up to the previous one. I think when you create and get positive feedback, there are certain expectations you create, ones that you feel like you have to live up to. Whenever I start a project and it just doesn’t feel right or I can’t figure something out, I do have that pang of fear and that impulse to quit that Gilbert talks about. I want to quit and move on to the next thing, when I will want to quit again so I can find the next thing I won’t finish. This has happened to me numerous times and resulted in numerous unfinished works. On the other hand, I also have numerous finished works that are just plain bad and I never have nor will show to anyone. I think there is a middle ground but I like Gilbert’s notion of plowing through and continuing work regardless. I also like the idea of not putting that immense amount of pressure on yourself. Oftentimes, I’ve found that creative people, including myself, find it very hard to separate the artwork from themselves. It is an enormous amount of pressure to know that you are placing something you created out there in the world for others to react to. As an artist, you made every single decision in the piece and every single decision reflects something about you. By that logic, you identify with the work and when the audience reacts to the work, you feel like in a way they are reacting to you as well. But I think Gilbert is right, our work does not define us. There is not person on this world who always makes the right decisions, the most beautiful things and avoids all mistakes. So while an artist may have created a piece that is praised and proclaimed to be a work of genius, this does not guarantee future triumphs, nor does it guarantee subsequent disappointments. To take all this pressure off, I completely agree that artists have to maintain a certain distance from their work in order to remain psychologically stable :) While I have never experienced a poem chasing me, nor have I ever talked to my walls (yet), I have had good and bad moments throughout my very young career as an artist, and I can identify with what Gilbert talks about. All in all, very interesting talk and worth your 20 minutes!