Elizabeth Gilbert on the creative daemon

This 19 minute video is a really amazing talk that gets into the power of myth in modern culture–specifically, citing the lack of it as part of the problem. Really, this video is an excellent use of 19 minutes if you’re up to any sort of creative endeavor. The idea she gets across–that one person’s creation isn’t really their creation, reminds me of a quote from the interview with crimethinc in Mythmakers & Lawbreakers:

First of all, I want to emphasize that language and all the stories inside of it are collectively produced. That is not to say that they are horizontally produced, but they are collectively produced. Capitalism is collectively produced: it’s a collective relation that we all participate in, in some ways, but a hierarchical one. We collectively produce language, we collectively produce our ideas. They come out of the conversations we’re all having. One person takes some ideas that have been gestating for hundreds of years, writes a book about them, puts his name on it, and makes a whole lot of money or a whole lot of intellectual capital, wins a whole lot of respect, for being the person who’s basically privatized this previously wild rainforest of ideas. I think that’s bullshit.

I will say that this video elevates the concept of the “artist” onto the pedestal that I really don’t agree with it being on. At best, I would hold that being a creative professional is along the same lines as any other professional (at worst, I would point out that you can’t eat a poem and that photographs don’t put out fires).

2 thoughts on “Elizabeth Gilbert on the creative daemon”

  1. I’m really glad you posted that video, I’ve been thinking a lot about it since I watched it. It reminds me of Lorca’s notion of the duende, the spirit that is on the brink of death that speaks through certain artists. It’s also interesting that not only Elizabeth Gilbert said this, but that you posted her here. I happen to love Eat Pray Love, but it feels like a guilty pleasure mostly because while it is a strangely comforting book, she really goes for the yuppie thing a little too much at times… But yeah, thank you for the post, very thoughtful.

    And I also agree with your assertion that artists should not be seen as separate than professionals, though I would say scientists more accurately describes it. It’s a very constructivist notion, which I love. However, you definitely lose me with the “you can’t eat a poem” business. Art is social lubrication and if we’re intent on creating an anarchic gift economy, then art functions as much more than the basic commodity, it is the foundation of our ability to share, to cooperate and to communicate. In examples of functional gift economies, historically or in present day, art objects (often fashion accessories) are the main ways that inequity is rectified, peace is maintained, and solidarity is demonstrated. In that way, I think you could say without the poem, you would starve.

    ps. if you get a chance please shoot me an email, boulevardier4eva.wordpress.com, I have a proposal for you, of love… j/k! it’s a project I want to see if you’d be interested in collaborating on…

  2. Hrmm… I’d love to know more about this concept of how art objects function to solve inequity in gift economies. (since gift economics is what I desire).

    My general thought is that, by and large, societies shouldn’t grant musicians or poets or artists or whatever a free pass just for being artists. I believe that people need to both specialize and generalize: sure, specialize in songwriting, that’s awesome and society needs it, but it also probably needs you to weed, or sort through trash. And the person who specializes in gardening might also paint, which is -also- a contribution to society. But basically, I don’t think that artists should be encouraged to pay their societal dues through media creation alone.

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