Sunday, February 08, 2009

Not killing the genius within or waiting on magical fairy juice. Performative identity work in writing a PhD

My blog had begun to go round in circles on change and I am trusting the move sideways to identity work is not a distraction. I have an inking its part of the same issue, for in as much as we change things, we too are changed.

Elizabeth Gilbert describes a way of being both normal and a genius. Its not the language of performative identity that she uses, but I believe she is writing of identity work.

While Annemarie Mol describes performativity occurring as different people work alongside others in a hospital and where arteriosclerosis is multiple as described in the stories where it is managed/treated/lived with, in contrast Elizabeth Gilbert is an author describing how she is both divine and human, creative and mundane; pressured to always be performing at peak.
And then I began thinking of my own lack of progress...

The following is a synopsis based on Kim Zetters write up

"Allowing somebody ... to believe that he or she is ... the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable, internal mystery is just like a smidge of too much responsibility to put on one fragile human psyche," she said. "It's like asking somebody to swallow the sun. It just completely warps and distorts egos, and it creates all of these unnatural expectations about performance. I think the pressure of that has been killing off our artists for the last 500 years."

She acknowledged that an audience filled with rational-minded people would balk at the idea of creativity as a kind of "mystical fairy juice" that's bestowed on someone. But she said it made as much sense as anything ever posited to explain the "utter, maddening, capriciousness of the creative process."

Elizabeth Gilbert relayed a story that musician Tom Waits told her years ago. One day he was driving on a Los Angeles freeway when a fragment of a melody popped into his head. He looked around for something to capture the tune -- a pencil or pen -- but had nothing to record it.

He started to panic that he'd lose the melody and be haunted by it forever and his talent would be gone. In the midst of this anxiety attack, he suddenly stopped, looked at the sky, and said to whatever force it was that was trying to create itself through the melody, "Excuse me. Can you not see I'm driving? Do I look like I can write down a song right now? If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment ... otherwise go bother somebody else today. Go bother Leonard Cohen."

Waits said his creative process, and the heavy anxiety that permeated it, changed that day. In releasing the creative force, he realized that creativity "could be a peculiar, wondrous, bizarre collaboration and conversation between Tom and the strange external genius that was not Tom," Gilbert said.

She recalled his story when she was in the midst of writing her (now top selling book) Eat, Pray Love and fell into a pit of despair when she felt blocked. She said aloud to whatever entity it was that usually helped her but was on furlough that day that if the book didn't turn out to be good it wasn't going to be entirely her fault since she was putting everything she had into the project. "So if you want [the book] to be better, then you've got to show up and do your part of the deal," she told it. "But I'll keep writing anyway, because that's my job. And I'd like the record to report today that I showed up."

I'm looking forward to the release of the Ted2009 talk.

And so for the record...
I'd like to report,today I showed up, today I'm human.
I'm having a Zen moment where before and after enlightenment there's still work to do.
And I am happy to accept my capacity for being genius and human is sometimes not performed concurrently, but performed within a compartmentalised life :)

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