Just Show Up. | November 28th, 2011


I recently enjoyed a brief presentation by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the best selling memoir Eat, Pray, Love. In her talk she spoke at length of the immense pressures artists feel while trying to create their next great work, whether it be a novel, a painting, a piece of music or dance. In an effort to quell her own fear that she would never produce another great work, she researched creativity through the ages. She discovered that some ancient cultures believed that creativity came from outside the self. In fact the word “genius” originally referred to an external being that would bestow a bit of its infinite knowledge upon a designated human. These entities were often tethered to a specific place – a sacred spot where an individual would go to pursue their life’s calling and thus make the connection with their genius.

In other words, all that was required for greatness was for one to be in the right place at the right time.

While I don’t consider myself an artist or a genius, I began thinking about the processes that I go through to produce logos, websites, and even these articles. I never know if I am going to be able to design another website that a client will fall in love with, and Sunday frequently rolls around without a hint of inspiration for my Monday morning newsletter. However, I do know that I have to show up. I have to plunk down in my desk chair and start clicking around with the mouse. I have to make an effort to get something started. I may stare at a blank screen for a bit, but eventually my genius will take pity on me and throw me a scrap of an idea that I can build upon. Nothing that’s going to get me into Mensa, but it generally does the trick.

So, I came to the conclusion that the creative process is not reserved for artists. No matter what your career path, you probably have fears, and you most certainly have your own genius. Your concerns may be less about creating critically acclaimed work, and more about profitability and marketplace fluctuation. Your genius may reveal itself as a concept for a new product, an inspired marketing plan, or a simple idea to improve efficiency, rather than a museum worthy painting.

No matter what results you seek, the requirements are still the same: you have to meet your genius half way. You need to keep showing up.

Does this mean if you go to the office and do what you’ve done everyday for the past decade, that you’ll suddenly be struck by divine inspiration? Probably not. If you want to accomplish anything worthwhile, there needs to exist a certain amount of intention and attention. Great artists became great because they intended to create beautiful works and paid endless attention to their craft. By doing so, they developed the tools to tap into their inspiration. Likewise, if you go to work and make a focused and thoughtful effort to move your business forward, don’t be surprised when opportunities and ideas present themselves more frequently. And when that does happen, remember to thank your genius.

Interested in hearing Elizabeth’s talk for yourself? Here it is:

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