I re-watched an old TED Talk video with Elizabeth Gilbert recently. In it she talks about creative genius, and the beliefs around the word “genius”. Before the Renaissance, a “genius” was something separate from yourself, also referred to as a “daemon”. This daemon would help the creative person with their work. So you would be referred to as having a genius, not being a genius. After the Renaissance, “genius” became associated with solely the person, not an otherworldly spirit. Gilbert says this put an enormous amount of pressure on the artist. If a work failed or wasn’t successful, it was solely the artist’s fault. Whereas with a “genius” or daemon, it wasn’t entirely the artist’s fault. The public could say, “Their genius wasn’t with them”. I think the idea of a separate genius or daemon is a healthy way of describing the creative “spark” or inspiration.
Creative ideas are strange; you can’t call them up at will. They come to you at inopportune times, like during a shower, or while driving. From personal experience, inspiration is something indescribable that comes at me unexpectedly, and I have to “grab” it by writing down the idea or doing a quick sketch. If I don’t jot it down, it disappears from my mind. Sometimes ideas come to me while I am working or sketching; those are the lucky days. Most times they don’t, and I have to show up and do the work to grind out an idea, and the idea will be mediocre. Great ideas are something I can “feel”; when I get them I get a little rush, and brain spark. On the days when my daemon shows up, these are the great ideas. I can’t take all the credit for them.