Celebrity & The “Creative Process”



The needle on my anger-meter moved into the “red zone” the other day.

So, my wife likes watching Dr. Oz; I know, I know, he’s a bit kooky and not very scientific but in my wife’s defense she very rarely follows the many health suggestions that he throws out on any given show. She doesn’t watch much TV anyway, and she enjoys his show, no problem.

So, she says over breakfast, she missed Elizabeth Gilbert’s visit on the Dr. Oz show the other day. That’s OK, I say, I’ll find the interview on the Internet; it’s on his website for sure.

And, of course, a snippet of it is there to be found. We watch it together and that’s when I started getting angry.

It has to do with celebrity as we find it in the modern world, particularly in the Excited States. There are so many one-time wonders out there who seem to still need to be front and centre in the public eye.

I have my own list, without putting too much effort into it, and I’m sure you have yours too, of very prolific artists in any field – music, fine art, literature – who, throughout their lifetime, continued to produce creatively. They created many, many works in their discipline and gave much to humanity, whether in the spotlight or not, as they plumbed the depths of their creative consciousness to the delight of the people who consumed their art.

(I was going to name a few, the Dickens, the Van Gogh’s, the Beatles – oops, I just did, and of course I could go on and on.)

Not to take away from those who are one-hit wonders. It’s still an accomplishment to capture the interest, artistically-speaking, of a sizable segment of the population.  (The album Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morrisette comes to mind. It came out 20 years ago: “One of the most successful albums of the 1990’s” says Wikipedia.)

But today, one-hit wonders do not like to disappear into obscurity anymore. The celebrity is too much of a fix, they must continue, somehow, being a “star”.

Eat, Pray, Love was an entertaining enough book but I think that it spoiled Elizabeth Gilbert. I read her novel The Signature of All Things which was published in 2013. It was OK; I did finish it, which is saying a lot, but it just made it in that regard. I’d give it a 5 or 6 out of 10, although perusing readers’ comment on Amazon, I found many people who absolutely loved it.  And I did hear her on a public radio station in the States not too long ago talking about the creative process.

She’s thought a lot about it, that’s for sure. Maybe, being a one-hit wonder and struggling to find “it” again, has forced her to.

In her latest book, Big Magic, Gilbert returns to the New Age “guruism” which was her bread and butter in EPL. On her website, she’s has a Press Release which says,

 Elizabeth knows firsthand that creative work can be fraught with obstacles and anxiety, even when you’ve achieved some success. In Big Magic, she offers insights into the magical nature of creativity; the path to uncovering the “strange jewels” the universe buries within each of us; the courage to tackle what we most love (and fear); and the attitudes, approaches, and habits that will sustain a creative life. Elizabeth believes creative living is available to everyone — artists and non-artists alike.

Holy Oprah Winfrey, Batman, another person is going to teach me how to be a Better Person!!!

People, Americans in particular, have a bottomless need to preach the better life, or to receive such teachings, particularly from the mouths of a celebrities.

Call me a purist, but it vexes me to see people resorting to this relatively easy route in a writing career, i.e. the New Agey “How-to-book”. Read Gilbert’s latest book and I bet that a couple of months or years down the road it will not have changed your life in the slightest.

I’m not saying that I wouldn’t look at Gilbert’s book if I came across it. I’m interested in the “Creative Process” as much as the next person. But I think that I would try to approach it as Entertainment and then see if I learned anything along the way. Certainly not as Gospel, thereby investing too much serious psychological capital. This is the best approach, I think, to put into any book in this genre.

My beef about most “How-to-books” is this: They usually make one feel inadequate about one’s life and then start preaching how you should change in order to repair this deficiency, changes which conform to the author’s own attitudes, experiences and points of view.

Millions of dollars richer, the author will eventually come out with another book, particularly when he or she is out of the limelight for a while.

Excuse me, but I will look for inspiration at the real “greats” in any artistic field. People who, man or woman, young or old, through a life of ease or suffering, could simply not contain their creative voice.

They continued to produce, year after year, and decade after decade, with or without any celebrity along the way.


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