Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Eat, Pray, Love and Creative Genius

Elizabeth Glbert is an interesting lady. I first made acquaintance with her through her book Eat, Pray, Love. The book is an autobiography – subtitled “One Woman’s Search for Everything, Across Italy, India and Indonesia”. It is a wonderful account – in some ways so wonderful I really wonder if all the facts haven’t been stretched.

It is the story recounting a year of her life when she travelled and spent 4 months in each of Italy, to learn Italian, to India, to spend time on an Ashram and pray and to Indonesia where she fell in love.

It is rather clever in its construction, arranged as a series of 108 stories, which symbolize the 109 beads on a string of Indian prayer beads called japa malas. On the bead necklace is 108 white beads and 1 black one. The number 108 represents supreme balance as the number is a perfect three digit multiple of three and its components add up to nine which is three threes. Three is a very auspicious number in quite a few religions. The last chapter, a thank you "story" makes the total 109 as in the necklace.

The stories are further divided into 3 sections, one for each country she lived in. Each section contains 36 tales of adventure, learnings and just plain good story telling.

I enjoyed the book immensely when I read it in the summer. It was what really got me started in believing that I could happily travel alone throughout the world in the coming years. Reading her story has fueled my wanderlust.

She is a compelling writer, with self depreciating humour and an easy, casual style. If I had any criticism of the book is that the wonderful tale seems not believable as it ends with such a positive outcome. That, and the fact that someone actually paid her to travel for a year and write this book. Some people have all the luck!

I liked the book so much I had to go out and buy my own copy (I had borrowed the first from a friend). I don't often re-read books, but I have a feeling that I will visit this one a few times in the years to come.

So it was with great glee that I saw that Elizabeth Gilbert was a speaker in the 2009 TED Talks. Her talk was released just a few days ago and it is no disappointment. In it she explores creative genius and how we expect the impossible from creative geniuses. She shares an idea borrowed from ancient Greece, that genius is not something we are, but something we have… Like an invisible partner who is responsible for how good (or not) the creative work turns out.

An interesting concept, which she builds upon in her second message: work hard and if you don’t succeed, you at least did your part. If you fail to produce a great creative work – it is not your fault and not a reflection on you – it is a reflection on your invisible partner who just didn’t do his job to supply the creative genius. A nice thought for those instances where you worked really hard on something and still, somehow it didn't measure up.

I am now in my 2nd month of writing these blogs. Some days it is easy and some days not so much. If my “muse” fails me and I end up writing something less than creatively wonderful – remember, it is not my fault. I guess my creative genius had gone out drinking that night.

Elizabeth is an exciting speaker who conveys her message with both humour and confidence. I enjoyed her talk and I hope you will too.

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