A New Way To Look At Genius

Renowned author Elizabeth Gilbert, who is probably best known for her New York Times Best Seller “Eat, Pray, Love,” recently spoke at the annual conference of TED (technology, entertainment, design), where the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers are challenged to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. In her speech, Gilbert suggested that we need to look at genius in a new way. She proposed that, like the Romans, we accept the premise that creative people are not geniuses, but that creative people have access to genius.

There is no doubt in my mind that she is correct. When I write – when I am truly in the zone – I am all too aware that the words are not mine. They come from somewhere else. Gilbert tells the story of a 90 year old poet whom she interviewed. The poet described how the words would come thundering at her from across the land when she worked in the fields as a young girl. Each time, she ran for the house and a pencil. If she got to pencil and paper before the words passed her by, she would have her poem. If not, the words would continue into the distance, seeking another creative soul. I cannot tell you how many times this has happened to me. I have moments of brilliant inspiration; words fly at me out of the air and hang there, juicy and ripe for the picking. But if I don’t write it down, it is lost forever.

Gilbert also talks about our ongoing battle with fear – that insidious enemy that plagues all creative types. Her speech is a bit long (she exceeded her 15 minutes, coming in just under 20), but it’s well worth watching.

4 thoughts on “A New Way To Look At Genius”

  1. Elizabeth Gilbert exudes genuine love and spontaneity in both her book and her dleivery at TED. I could have watched her for hours , just as I did not want to ever finish her book.
    I look forward w/ great exhiliration , passion and calm collect to her next book which will simply just BE ………
    or not…… or even better…. I would welcome her to my home or store in SCottsdale anytim e to do a book signing or talk w/ all of the ladies I work with every day…. who I have come to love.
    Fondly , Warm blessings,

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Barbara, for sharing this wonderful video.

    Last night I asked the universe to tell me how I could write the book I have inside about romance. Elizabeth’s empowering, enthralling words are my answer.

    Now, I’m curious about how her notion of genius and how mere mortals access it dovetails with Dan Pink’s new book on right brain thinking….hmmm.

    Can’t wait to read more of your blog.

    Best, Dina
    This Marriage Thing

    Dina Eisenberg (@CuriousDina)’s last blog post..What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up (the second time)?


Leave a Comment