Why do so many great artists die young?

TED talk by author Elizebeth Gilbert on creative insight and inspiration and how our egos destroy us.


One of the most elevated highs is to nail a story, a piece of art, or an idea. One of the most discouraging lows is to feel burned out for lack of inspiration or producing something that is sub-standard or uninspired. Becoming an artist is scary because so many artists become absorbed completely in their own egos.

Often after a great high of nailing it, comes a dreaded feeling like, “What will be the sequel to this?” Or “Now what?” Elizebeth Gilbert, author of international best seller “Eat Pray Love“, says, “I realize I will probably never top this book and never write anything better…So what would prevent me from waking up at nine in the morning to drink gin?” Before she went on to write her next book, she decided to research this topic.

Gilbert examined how different societies and cultures view inspiration and creativity. She found that the problem with the current state of creative-types, and creativity in general, is the over-usage of the personal pronoun “I”.

Greeks and Romans in ancient times didn’t not attribute any creative inspiration to themselves, but instead believed that inspiration and genius came from external spiritual beings that chose to reside with someone and speak in their ear. This way if someone failed it wasn’t so much their fault as it was the fault of their “genius” — an external entity. She found poets and even Tom Waits had a similar idea about their inspiration.

Gilbert believes that too many creative types take on too much of the responsibility for their creative work, believing they are the well spring and vessel. They possess the entity from which their inspiration flows. This leads to massive egos with huge expectations and massive depression, burn out and a lot of creative people dying at a young age. Because individuals can never personally take such responsibility, especially for true creative insight. I like this video because it offers a departure from the egocentric western mentality.

Anyhow, this is just my take on the video. Watch and enjoy.


I would like to hear your take on it. Post your comments or write Richard[at]utahstories[dot com]

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