TED2009 minutes from Erik Hersman: Elizabeth Gilbert on ruining genius

Posted by: Tedstaff


Erik Hersman is liveblogging his experience at TED2009 while Ethan Zuckerman takes a day off to accept an award in another location. His most recent update is on Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat, Pray, Love”. Just an excerpt from the piece:

“Elizabeth weaves an insightful story of artists, success and pressure. She asks if she’s doomed. What if she never replicates the success of her past book? Is it rational or logical to be afraid of the work that we were put on this earth to do? Why have artists and writers had this history of manic depressive and mental illnesses? Why does artistry always lead to mental anguish?”

Elizabeth poses an interesting question — should we be romanticizing tortured geniuses, or helping them?

Photo: Elizabeth Gilbert at TED2009, Session 5: Understand, Feb. 5, 2009, Long Beach, CA credit: TED / Asa Mathat

Comments (6)

  • commented on Jun 20 2012


  • commented on Oct 20 2010

    I like how Elizabeth Gilbert thinks about “genius”, or rather, “having genius”.

    Gilbert really does “have” genius.

    I can relate to the part when she talked about the song writer. It’s so funny and very true. Most of the time “genius” comes to a person unexpectedly. Therefore, we must always be ready to accept “genius”.

    And above all, we must learn not to be conceited because that “genius” isn’t yours. It just happens to come across you and you have grabbed it.

    Next time you feel “genius”, grab it. And be thankful to the “genius”. Ole!

  • Peter Daas commented on Feb 8 2009

    I’m not sure if we can help ‘tortured’ geniuses. Just by helping them, we might ruin what gives them their genius abilities.


  • Henrik Vendelbo commented on Feb 16 2009

    When my sister studied fashion they had a whole class on the source of creativity. The conclusion was that fashion comes from the street not the “brilliant” designer.
    If we accept that it is the world around you that is the real source, and that creative greatness is merely the habits that channels and crystalises the inspiration from the surrounding, then I think it become a bit easier to deal with success.

  • James Potts commented on Feb 12 2009

    How selfish a though it is to think that it might be better for suffering to continue and possibly kill another person so that the world may enjoy their art. I’d venture to say that most who are ‘tortured’ would rather be free from such trappings.

    • commented on Jun 20 2012

      I just watched Elizabeth Gilbert 2009 talk now! may be my guarding Genius guided me to it somehow!, It profoundly touched me, My perception of the creative Genie who is assigned to me is that (bored of me somehow now!) Most Artists or creative people had to go through pain (like a sea shell gets a grain of sand that causes pain and reacts to it by covering it with layers of a certain substance that is shiny and beautiful ) that eventually creates a PEARL.
      so in my psyche I always expected that such pain had to be endured and that creates something worth having at the end.! NO Pain No Pearl!