It is time to dispel the myth of the artist as a lone genius and recognise that creativity is always a form of collaboration
Art is not an antisocial gesture: the idea of the solitary genius, with an immense talent, who is suddenly struck by the lightning of divine inspiration, is an unhelpful myth.
A healthy and productive way of thinking about creativity can be explained by the musician, Brian Eno, who says “genius is individual, scenius is communal”. By this, he means that we should not think of individual genius, but of a group of creative people, coming from different working sectors, who give life to a sort of "ecosystem of talent". A scenius is like a genius, only it is embedded in a scene, rather than in genes.
If we really look at history, we can observe many great characters who have created immense works, but who also spent their time in settings and with groups that helped each other; they copied one another and exchanged ideas. Scenius does not mean to diminish the greatness of certain talents, but to enhance the fact that creative works do not appear by themselves, because they are always the result of some form of collaboration, the fruit of the connection between several minds. Scenius is an organic process in which highly skilled people breed ideas with other highly skilled people.
To become part of a scenius, we don't have to be particularly smart or talented, that's not the point. The point is to share ideas, establish and nurture quality relationships, and do your part. The question to ask is "In what way can I contribute to this group?".
In this scenario, we can consider our amateur status as a strength; an amateur is someone who does something for pleasure and passion. These people have an advantage over the professionals: they are willing to take risks, they have nothing to lose, and they have no reputation to defend. They can allow themselves to experiment and follow their instincts, to make mistakes, and even to make a fool of themselves. Amateurs continue to learn throughout their lives and do it with enthusiasm and pride; they are ordinary people, passionate about a particular subject, and willing to put their heart and soul into what they do, and often have more things to teach us than the experts.
Steve Jobs said that thinking about death is a good way to remind us that we have nothing to lose when we expose ourselves in front of others, and when we take risks, because what awaits us in the end is the same for everyone. "You're already naked," he said. Knowing that death comes to us all and that one day it will be our turn helps a great deal in putting everything in perspective, and with this in mind, reading an obituary now and then can actually be helpful.
Reading the obituaries column is a way for us to take a closer look at death, to think about it, yet still keep it at a distance. Reading about people who are no longer with us and learning what they have done in their lives can encourage us to do something good in ours!
The key ideas of "Show Your Work"
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