Genius is outside the self

I have the answer to where my genius comes from.

This week, I have been taking part in a clowning workshop run by Peta Lily.

Our exercises often mean we have to make the audience laugh, and be funny.

Lately I was intrigued by Elizabeth Gilbert‘s theory that genius is not internal, but external, and a sort of muse that we can call upon. (See my recent blog Where do ideas come from? for more details.)

During clowning, I decided to test this theory for myself. In preparation for clowning, the actor should spend a minute being with themselves and getting themselves into the ‘clown state’. This is best described as getting simple-minded and seeing everything as endless potential for enthusiasm.

During this phase, I repeated my exercises to get into clown state, and also emptied my mind and invited genius to come.

The exercise went well. At the end, Peta asked us to high-five each other with the words, “You are a comedy genius!”. I was very aware that the comedy genius was not me, but a visiting muse who had graciously helped me channel the divine comedy.

Later on in the week, I repeated the invitation to genius. I wasn’t always successful or funny.

But what a difference it made to my state of mind! After an ‘unsuccessful’ exercise, I didn’t beat myself up. I wasn’t a failure. The genius just wasn’t up to scratch right at that moment.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s theory has helped me not to take failure personally, and not get too big-headed about my successes.

Why not invite the muse next time you need to get creative?