In 2006, acclaimed but not tremendously successful writer Elizabeth Gilbert published her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. It would come to redefine her life entirely.
The book spent 207 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, spawned a successful film adaptation, and saw Gilbert named one of the top 100 influential people in the world.
What Gilbert experienced is what many of us can only dream about. Her Great Work was being read by audiences around the world. She had made an impact. She had conquered the demons of doubt and resistance, and created something extraordinary. Truly a remarkable achievement.
So why did she feel so scared?
Was it because people kept asking her where she was going to go from there? What her plan was to exceed the success she found with Eat, Pray, Love?
“It’s exceedingly likely that my greatest success is behind me”, Gilbert admitted bluntly five minutes into her beloved 2009 TED Talk, Your Elusive Creative Genius.
It’s a position creatives of all kinds – artists especially, yes, but many others too – have found themselves in over the last several centuries, and they’ve all handled it in different ways. Some have stopped creating from that moment on. Others have cracked under the pressure. Too many have killed themselves.
The news of an artist losing their minds or drowning at the bottom of a beer bottle comes as no surprise to us. Creativity and suffering have become romantically paired to an unsettling degree.
Gilbert took to the TED stage because she believes that romanticisation needs to come to an end. That the notions around genius, and the expectations that come with it, need to be eradicated so that the mind is unburdened and can just get on with the job of creating.
She believes to do so, we must recognise that genius itself is not an internalised trait, but an almost supernatural force that we are all capable of tapping into.
So long as we show up every day to do the work that makes tapping into the genius possible.
This is what ultimately defines The 8 Percent. Creativity is important. Courage is crucial. Excellence is the goal. But if you don’t do the work, the rest doesn’t matter.