Culturing Creative Genius

April 14, 2014 at 3:45 pm | Posted in Books, Psychology, Writing | Leave a comment

Here and there we see books and studies of the highly successful. Behaviours we can emulate to achieve success. A new book takes a little different tack. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Curry examines the habits of 161 creative thinkers and artists, many well-known.

In this review by Sarah Green in the Harvard Business Review, she describes The Daily Routines of Geniuses. Some of them you’ll find in most success books too. But the creative angle brings out other nuances. She quotes the book: “A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.”

The reviewer notes “I began to notice several common elements in the lives of the healthier geniuses…” They were:
A workspace with minimal distractions
A daily walk – some long
Accountability metrics
A clear dividing line between important work and busywork
A habit of stopping when they’re on a roll, not when they’re stuck
A supportive partner
Limited social lives

Not that I’m a famous genius but I can add a few points to the excellent article.

She mentions how email comes in constantly. I long ago set my email up to not check automatically but rather I check manually so I could process it in bursts, at a break.

For myself, taking a break when you’re stuck is a good idea. Then you can come back fresh. But you may need to work through ongoing resistance. I also don’t break when I’m on a roll because the best stuff can come out then. However, that can result in an odd eating schedule on occasion.

As for the partner, there does need to be life balance in there for an effective relationship. It helps if they’re flexible about the inspiration though. As for “limited social lives”, that would be a less healthy trait. A lot of creative work is done solo. I learned that a balanced life includes a social life and became more intentional about that. It’s all too easy to put a life aside if the muse is strong.

One thing she mentioned but didn’t highlight would be “catching the muse when it shows up”. I have post-it notes around the place and keep paper & pen with me to capture ideas when they show up. They tend not to create memory impressions so can be lost like waking from a dream if they’re not noted. While this isn’t directly part of a daily routine, it is an important ritual.

I also recommend Elizabeth Gilbert’s distinction between Being a genius and Having a genius. While we can manage our lifestyle around genius and culture it, genius itself is not something we control. It is a gift rather than a trait. We must be prepared for when the wind rises and the light shines. Then we can capture a little of our creative genius.
David

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