Where do your good ideas come from? Are you a genius or do you have a genius? There is a difference as Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, points out in a recent video about the creative process. She notes that early cultures believed they had a genius, “a divine spirit that came from a distant and unknowable source” that waited in the corner and gifted people with moments of brilliance: showed them a new way of doing something, popped a poem in their head, bestowed a new song to their ears.
Gilbert describes how poet Ruth Stone feels a poem rushing toward her over the landscape and how she races to the house to get a pen and paper to write down the poem before it passes her by. Stone doesn’t believe that she is a genius. She believes that she collects her poems from a genius.
Have you ever had those moments when an idea came into your head, a gift from the universe, from God, from your genius? Did you stop and take note or just carry on and say, “I’ll think about this later.” Don’t do it. Because if we are not geniuses (contrary to what our entitled society would like to have us believe), then we need help and we can’t afford to pass it by.
In some cultures, these moments of brilliance are called being “a glimpse of God,” Gilbert says. If you are in sports, it means you’re in the zone. If you are an artist, it could feel like you are transcendent, lit by divinity.
When I was writing Maud’s House, a novel about lost and found creativity, I was trying to express this idea of having a genius. There is a character in the book, a sheriff who builds birdhouses that resemble famous houses. Sheriff Odie Dorfmann also loves to play baseball. He describes a moment of genius on the baseball field to his friend George:
Odie told George what it would feel like to hit that ball. “I will know it’s the one the moment I connect. Its greatness will reverberate down my arm. I’ll feel it in my muscles; it’s impossible not to feel something that smooth. I’ll stand for a moment and watch it, contemplate the ball I sent to the stars, then I’ll skip once, twice, and head for first. I’ll take it easy, a token run for the crowds, but still the bases will disappear under my feet like the steps of an escalator. And when the reporters grab me and ask how it felt, I’ll just say, ‘It was heaven, boys, heaven.”’
Odie divulged to few people the rest of the dream. There was a feeling, he said, that always came over him at the end, just as the ball was almost out of sight, a feeling that it didn’t matter who had hit that ball, that it was headed for the universe at that particular moment in time and he just happened to be the guy who gave it a lift.
“Sometimes when I build birdhouses,” Odie told George that night in a whispery voice, “I get the same feeling, that I’m an instrument, a channel. It’s not a helpless feeling, not an out-of-control feeling because I seem to be not only the tool but the person using the tool.” Silence. “Weird, huh?”
If we show up and are open to the possibilities, who knows where genius will come from? Maybe you’ll get smacked by a genius while reading a blog, driving your car, or rambling through the jungles of Pinterest. My daughter is always looking for brilliant ways to organize her life. Recently, she asked me to help her create wardrobe organizers out of CD labels, one of her many Pinterest projects. CD-looking things bringing order to your fashion life. To the harried mother trying to get five kids dressed for school or the career woman who hates making decisions in the morning, this is a moment of genius.
Whether you believe you are a genius or, like me, prefer to have a genius, I have one wish for you today: May you be a glimpse of God.
If you would like to read more about Odie Dorfmann, the baseball-playing, birdhouse-building lawman, as well as a whole town of people waiting for their geniuses, I invite you to check out Maud’s House.
I also invite you to watch the Elizabeth Gilbert video: