“Genius means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.”
“The creative person wants to be a know-it-all. He wants to know about all kinds of things-ancient history, nineteenth century mathematics, current manufacturing techniques, hog futures. Because he never knows when these ideas might come together to form a new idea. It may happen six minutes later, or six months, or six years. But he has faith that it will happen.”
“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.”
Mary Lou Cook
I love the Japanese title, NATIONAL LIVING TREASURE, and believe we would do well to adopt it here—if only we could confine it to creative people and keep it separate from business, politics, and commercial success generally. The thought of some political hack getting the title makes my stomach churn. On the other hand, the prospect of Maria Popova receiving it pleases me greatly—and there are many other great creative people, some successful, some less so, who deserve such recognition.
Ideally, I see it being focused on the less well known—the kind of people who are widely respected in their individual fields for both the quality of their work and their integrity, but who probably don’t have national recognition. In fact, they may not even be particularly successful commercially—but their work speaks for itself.
I tend to think of Maria Popova as a one person guardian, explainer, appreciator, and advocate of creativity and artistic endeavor generally—and it is a role which she clearly loves and in which she really excels. She is a true and consistent champion of creativity.
She works through her website, BRAIN PICKINGS which I mainly encounter through her weekly newsletter, which arrives every Sunday. Actually, her website is worth visiting independently of the newsletter—but I confess I didn’t make that extra effort until recently.
Though she writes with vigor and clarity herself, she tends to spearhead her work with quotes from others—and they tend to be reinforced with truly spectacular (and often unusual graphics). This is a woman who has made tracking down the less predictable, the evocative—the visually striking, but unsettling—into an art form in itself.
The following are examples of the kind of quotes she excels at locating. n this case, they are from Julia Cameron:
Art is a spiritual transaction. Artists are visionaries. We routinely practice a form of faith, seeing clearly and moving toward a creative goal that shimmers in the distance — often visible to us, but invisible to those around us. Difficult as it is to remember, it is our work that creates the market, not the market that creates our work. Art is an act of faith, and we practice practicing it.
No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity. . . . I have come to believe that creativity is our true nature, that blocks are an unnatural thwarting of a process at once as normal and as miraculous as the blossoming of a flower at the end of a slender green stem.
I learned to turn my creativity over to the only god I could believe in, the god of creativity, I learned to get out of the way and let that creative force work through me… I learned to just show up at the page and write down what I heard. Writing became more like eavesdropping and less like inventing a nuclear bomb. It wasn’t so tricky, and it didn’t blow up on me anymore. I didn’t have to be in the mood. I didn’t have to take my emotional temperature to see if inspiration was pending. I simply wrote. No negotiations. Good, bad? None of my business. I wasn’t doing it. By resigning as the self-conscious author, I wrote freely.
If you think of the universe as a vast electrical sea in which you are immersed and from which you are formed, opening to your creativity changes you from something bobbing in that sea to a more fully functioning, more conscious, more cooperative part of that ecosystem.
The heart of creativity is an experience of the mystical union; the heart of the mystical union is an experience of creativity. . . . Creativity is an experience — to my eye, a spiritual experience. It does not matter which way you think of it: creativity leading to spirituality or spirituality leading to creativity. In fact, I do not make a distinction between the two. In the face of such experience, the whole question of belief is rendered obsolete. As Carl Jung answered the question of belief late in his life, “I don’t believe; I know.”
Do most of us regard creativity this way—as a force of this power? I fear that most of us do not. Most of us have been conditioned not to think this way—but to conform.
We are living with the consequences.