The Shocking Truth About Creativity

The Shocking Truth About Creativity

***Warning*** Audience Participation Required!

What is it that makes us creative? I mean other than the obvious grey matter, neurological synapse firing and conscious and subconscious minds? 

What is it really? Where does it come from, and why does it leave us sometimes?

Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat.Pray.Love) has done an amazing TED talk, it’s in the top 10 list of must watch talks for writers and it’s even in the list of top 20 most popular TED talks ever. If you haven’t watched one before you really should, but particularly Elizabeth Gilbert’s. It would also help if you watch it before reading this post, although its not essential, I’ve tried to highlight the key bits.

She has done a lot of research into historical concepts of creativity muses, inspiration and genius. She talks particularly about the Greeks and Romans who labelled creativity and muses as ‘Daemons and ‘geniuses’. The fundamental point of this talk is that the Romans described this ‘genius’ was as a disembodied thing.

Rather than being a genius you either ‘have’ genius or you don’t. The ancients took responsibility away from us mere apes. A positive because when we are suffering writers block it is not our fault, our ‘genius’ has literally and physically disappeared. What I find particularly fascinating is the notion that we as humans and writers don’t/can’t or shouldn’t be a genius ourselves. Meaning we can’t be our own muse – we only have those moments of genius inspiration when our ‘genius’ is physically with us. Gilbert goes on to explain that putting the ‘font of all creativity’ on a tiny human brain is a huge responsibility and that as lowly humans this pressure is what causes so much depression in creative people. – I can see her point. What creative person hasn’t suffered at the hands of depression, or block?

During the talks Gilbert mentions one particular poet who sees poems flying at her from the horizon barrelling towards her like a pipe of air and they literally pass through her body. If she can’t reach a pen and paper quick enough the poems disappear unless she can literally grab its tale and pull it back into her body. At which point the poem would come out word perfect but backwards.

This is all lovely, but that means I can never be a genius, but then I suppose I am also not responsible for my failure either. Does this mean only the lucky few who have the genius can ever write well and be successful? Maybe that’s why we have just a few best sellers and so many that aren’t

The thing is I’m not sure I like the idea of this. In fact, I really don’t like it. It’s too bitter a pill to swallow. I refuse to accept it. I’m not a control freak but the idea that my own failure isn’t my own but equally my success isn’t my own either just the consequence of being lucky and having a genius is not one I appreciate. Is that not more damaging to our psyches then a bout of writers block?

I want to know that my struggles, my failures and therefore any successes are the result of my own hard work, not because a muse was ‘with’ me. Don’t the struggles and failures make any success that bit sweeter?

My questions to you:

  • What does creativity feel like to you?
  • What does it feel like when you get that moment of inspiration?
  • How and when does it hit you?

But What Does ‘Having’ A Genius Feel Like?


For me, I am nothing like the poet. I can’t see or watch inspiration or my genius coming. Ideas don’t usually brew consciously in my mind. They just ‘pop’ out of nowhere. I liken my experience to the light bulb flash. Ideas appear, both suddenly and surprisingly. Don’t get me wrong, not always.

I can think about an idea, work on it, smush it about a bit, pull it apart and rebuild. I can trawl through pinterest shaping, looking, staring at images and words. I can bash out an idea in a conversation with a friend, or by doodling. I can grow things in my mind just like the rest of you.

But I’m not talking about those ideas I am talking about ‘THE ideas, those magical special ones… the really really good ones, those flashes of inspiration that lead to an amazing story, or a spectacular project… the ones that lead to a bestseller.

When this happens my ideas appear either completely formed or 80% formed and the other 20% is right around the corner.

It’s hard to explain my light bulb moment physically, but normally it’s in the car, or somewhere in appropriate when I definitely don’t have access to a pen (so frustrating). When it happens, its like an actualy pop, in my mind, something squeezed inbetween a few grey cells ‘POP there is it. My eyes always bug out of my face and a sense of electric excitement and anxiety take over my brain. Excitement of having an amazing idea, and anxiety that I might lose it if I cant get it down on time – that bit I suppose is like the poet. I definitely get flustered and mildly panicked if I cant write down whatever is it that has appeared.

So I will ask you again:

  • What does creativity feel like to you?
  • What does it feel like when you get that moment of inspiration?
  • How and when does it hit you?

And one more question for good luck:

What do you think about the concept of Gilberts ‘genius’?


  1. I’m going to do something that I don’t normally do, which is to answer your question with a blog post. I wrote about this subject a while back
    To me, creativity and inspiration are two different things. I see inspiration as something that you can’t control. It just happens. However you can increase the chances of it happening by putting yourself in a ‘state’, or environment, that is conducive to sparking these moments. Creativity is what you then do with it, and this only comes through hard work, trying things out, and the odd additional moment of inspiration.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I’ve had a quick scan of your post – interesting. I think I agree. It’s more that Elizabeth Gilbert lumped it into one or that’s how I saw it anyway, so I didn’t give much thought to the differences between them. But now you highlight it I think its a fantastic distinction. I guess my question to you is – when those random meets of inspiration do happen – what does it feel like?


  2. What does creativity feel like to you?
    I don’t know that it has a feel. It’s always there for me, and thus I don’t believe I can distinguish it from other feelings. It encompasses all feelings of the spectrum.

    What does it feel like when you get that moment of inspiration?
    Panic sets in that I fear I cannot get the words down fast enough before the ideas leave me. But that may be more due to my short term memory problems and amensia.

    How and when does it hit you?
    Whenever it likes. It’s an evil thing. Usually when I am doing nothing at all and my brain is at rest. I may even be writing something unrelated to whatever the creativity moment is about but with my thoughts elsewhere it is as though it unchains and releases that creativity from restraints I may have put on it.

    Gilbert’s idea of Genius?
    I think it is an interesting concept. I don’t believe that it is the end all be all of creativity nor the indicator of success of a book or not. That concept to me is a bit of a cope out because so many factors go in to a success that it is not only about the writing nor only about the genius..

    Great article. I REALLY enjoyed. I rarely comment these days on any posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well then I am honoured you commented 😊😊😊 thank you so much.

      I tend to get ideas at inconvenient times too like when I am doing something else!! But I also get that panic feeling too.

      Amnesia… Do you mind me asking why?


      1. About a year and a half ago I fell in my home due to either a migraine or a back spasm, no one knows for certain. But I hit my head three times on the way down. So now retrograde amnesia of everything before the accident other than my son and like just common things, although I had to learn to write, eat, speak again, and short term memory problems. I sleep to long and I won’t remember things. Or if I don’t have contact with someone I now know for a time I wont’ remember them. Doesn’t help with the 24/7 migraines. 🙂 By the way, people love your blog. I see other people reblog your things and rave about you. I agree with them.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ok wow, what an awful thing to happen to you. I am so so glad you remembered your son. Our brains are a truly wonderous thing, with psychology as a background it amazes me that we can do things like that. I can’t believe what you had to fight through and re learn. Your a hero. What a lovely thing to say, 🙂 🙂 🙂 I am stunned into silence, and that rarely happens! I am glad you think people like my blog it really really means the world to me 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m a bit like Dylan. I am sure that most of my ideas come from external sources, some stimulus that happens to coincide with me being receptive. But the coalescing of that stimulus with my previously stored experiences to create an idea from which some story might arise, that is entirely within me. I certainly do not buy into any idea of an external force being behind my work – superstitious mumbo jumbo frankly. And a cop out as you say. I mean, there are people who are inspired to create something fresh but often they are just the culmination of other ideas. Take Einstein. He had the genius to see a solution but others had seen the problem and without seeing the problem – that Newtonian laws didn’t work in all circumstances – he wouldn’t have had to see the solution. In terms of a best seller, that is ridiculous since being a best seller is as much a question of zeitgeist as it is genius. Some people are hailed genius in their own time and some long after. The long afters don’t have the Gilbert dilemma. Sure it’s a burden but then so is being an international gymnastic sensation at 14 and sending the rest of your life not being able to repeat it. It happens. How you deal with success is up to you and those around you. She’s right, you need to turn up and do the job but having someone else to praise and blame is not the way forward.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent post. I don’t agree with Gilbert’s formulation of “genius,” although I’ve read the classical formulation. I’ve known a couple of “geniuses” and they seem to think faster, louder and clearer than everyone around them. Recognized “geniuses” express those ideas loudly and clearly, too. Unrecognized “geniuses,” not so clearly (or maybe just not so loudly). They think that way all the time, not just in flashes of brilliance when their “genius” is with them. The gift is in the expression, not the thought process.

    I don’t like the notion of abdicating our own inspiration, success or failure, either. My brain doesn’t work that way and the presence of a “genius” (daemon or muse, whatever label you want to put on it), doesn’t really fit my personal experience. I know I’m not a genius, but my best thoughts are often louder and clearer than others. They usually come when I’m already writing, when I’m focused and creatively stimulated. They’re not flashes of insight. They’re not gifts from an external presence. They’re not flying words that pass through me (thankfully, that sounds frightening). They’re connections within my mind. Tangential thoughts that link and form something greater than the sum of their parts. Maybe that’s why I see creativity as derivative.

    All that said, I really enjoyed the “TED Talk.” In fact, I’ve enjoyed all of the TED Talks I’ve watched. They are, truly, a gift to the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, and thank you for leaving such a thoughtful reply. I have to agree with you, true geniuses really do think in a constant flow of amazingness. It’s not switched on or off. I feel the same about my creativity – that is always there, its just that inspiration comes In spurts for me. But then, it’s not like it disappears when I’m not having a proper light bulb moment, I can still have ideas and be inspired by life around me. I LOVE TED talks too. I have the app on my phone and iPad and I think they are just fantastic!. Thank you so much for visiting. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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