Finding Your Outer Genius

26Feb09

I recently saw a segment on 60 Minutes featuring Coldplay, and in particular, Chris Martin. It was a well-produced band profile, but it seemed slightly odd because they’re not exactly a new band. But one thing did stand out about it, and that was when Chris Martin talked about his songwriting process. Since I still have no idea how exactly someone writes a song (lyrics then music? or vice versa? and what instruments do you start with…) Well, I still don’t know. But in the following excerpt from the show, correspondent Steve Kroft describes part of Martin’s process:

He is a compulsive worrier and list-maker. He sends himself electronic messages, and scrawls notes on scraps of paper, on his hands, and anything else that’s available, lest he forget some brilliant idea.

“And you have notes written on the piano,” Kroft pointed out.

“Yeah a little, but this is just the beginning, so, in six months, this will all be covered, I think,” Martin explained.

“Then you have to repaint the piano?” Kroft asked.

“Yeah. So when we finish something, we repaint, you know?

And they write all over the walls in the studio, too. I guess any flat surface will do when that moment of inspiration hits them—there’s no time to look for paper.

This leads me to my next discovery, a lecture on creativity given by writer Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. She spoke at the TED conference this month, and her talk was filmed as part of the TED Talks series.

Gilbert offers up an interesting take on the idea of creative genius. She thinks it’s helpful to look at it as an outside force lurking around, waiting to find an artist who is willing to embrace it and bring the idea into being. She also talks about the fear associated with creative professions. For example, she says:

What is it specifically about creative ventures that seems to make us really nervous about each others mental health in a way that other careers kinda don’t do? Like my dad, for example, was a chemical engineer, and I don’t recall once in his forty years of chemical engineering anybody asking him if he was afraid to be a chemical engineer.

Exactly. And I bet nobody asked him if he had a fall-back job, you know, in case that checmical engineering thing didn’t pan out.

Anyway, the rest of the talk is worth checking out.


And if you want to read more about how success really has a lot to do with circumstance then read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, which I just finished. Hmmm, all this talk of success…must be a reaction to all the months of talking about failure in this country.

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One Response to “Finding Your Outer Genius”

  1. 1 Ellsworth

    First blog I read after wakeup from sleep today!


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