Channeling Creative Impulse

An unexpected but relevant question to ask yourself as you develop your creative habits

I’m lucky enough to be working on a project for TED, and even luckier that it required me to watch (for a second time) Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk about elusive creative genius… and this section of the talk just REALLY stood out to me, this time, and I wanted to share it:

“And for me, the best contemporary example that I have of how to do that is the musician Tom Waits, who I got to interview several years ago on a magazine assignment. And we were talking about this, and you know, Tom, for most of his life he was pretty much the embodiment of the tormented contemporary modern artist, trying to control and manage and dominate these sort of uncontrollable creative impulses that were totally internalized.

But then he got older, he got calmer, and one day he was driving down the freeway in Los Angeles he told me, and this is when it all changed for him. And he’s speeding along, and all of a sudden he hears this little fragment of melody, that comes into his head as inspiration often comes, elusive and tantalizing,and he wants it, you know, it’s gorgeous, and he longs for it, but he has no way to get it. He doesn’t have a piece of paper, he doesn’t have a pencil, he doesn’t have a tape recorder.

So he starts to feel all of that old anxiety start to rise in him like, ‘I’m going to lose this thing, and then I’m going to be haunted by this song forever. I’m not good enough, and I can’t do it.’ And instead of panicking, he just stopped. 

He just stopped that whole mental process and he did something completely novel. He just looked up at the sky, and he said, ‘Excuse me, can you not see that 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 when I can take care of you. Otherwise, go bother somebody else today. Go bother Leonard Cohen.'”

Watch the full talk (it’s worth it): 

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html

Photo above by ianbckwltr on Flickr

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