Thursday, February 9, 2012

Genius and the Writer

My 5-year-old granddaughter wants to be a princess in the worst way. She adores pink, fluffy dresses and sparkly shoes, and I'm sure owns a tiara for every day of the week. (My personal belief is that the princess-longing, which seems stronger today than ever before, though it's not new, mirrors the heart's desire to be daughters of God.)

Did I ever want to be a princess? Sure. But I was always taller and bigger than my friends, my mom wouldn't buy me a pink, fluffy dress, and she always kept my hair cut short for her own convenience, so I had a hard time feeling like one. But what I wanted to be even more than a princess? A genius.

With this, I had somewhat better luck. :) Especially in the early grades, I was always the top of the class and scored, way, way beyond grade level on standardized tests. When my father, an educator, revealed my IQ to his boss (by way of discussing the success of a teaching technique) the man about dropped his teeth, and when going for an advanced degree my dad even wrote a seminar paper on gifted children, centered on, ahem, me (by name). My dad has passed on, and I have his papers in my possession now. And yes, it's really interesting for me to read what he had to say about me. :)

So when I was reading a bit about writing and genius lately, and simultaneously recalling what the main character in John Green's An Abundance of Katherines said about himself: that he wasn't a genius, but a prodigy (a prodigy being one who shows great brilliance early, but whom others eventually catch up with and even surpass, which is also a much better label for me), I became more curious about the nature of genius, and specifically, what a "writing genius" is.

I learned that in ancient Rome, a genius was a guiding spirit. Because people who achieved great things were then thought to have a very powerful angel (to me, it's an angel) assisting them, the word genius eventually also came to mean talent, intelligence, or extraordinary inspiration. Whether the guidance, and what was produced, seemed extraordinary or not, each person had that guiding spirit, guiding him or her straight into the center of their divine calling.

So it isn't so much whether we are a genius, but that we have a genius. So I'm not a genius, but I have one. We all do; whatever our calling is, we have divine help ready to lead and guide us to it and in it, into the originality that is ours to produce.

How will you tap into your genius today? :)


Faith E. Hough said...

I love this, Marcia. I think it's so important to allow yourself to be led in your writing, to acknowledge that it's not all about you, but someone working through you. I've been having a hard time in my writing lately, so on my calendar where I write my weekly writing goals, all I wrote for this week was: "Write every day. LET GOD LEAD." And I have to say, I've written some of my best work.
Also, I agree about the longing to be princesses. My four- and two-year-olds are--as I type--bedecking themselves with frilly dresses and feather boas. :)

Barbara Watson said...

Great points, Marcia, and I like the personal stories woven in here. When it comes to writing, tapping into my genius usually means working hard at something, over and over again, until it feels right (or at least better).

Vijaya said...

Okay, now I want you to share what juicy things your father said about you ... I'm thinking about the whole genius thing, and perhaps because I've had too many cookies and I'm on a sugar high -- I wonder whether it comes from genie (and I'm sure the origin of that word is Indian -- I'll be like my mother and claim all this without looking anything up!).

I'm so thankful my daughter is not the princessy type. I was never one either growing up. We're both creatures who love earth and bugs and plants and dirt.

I like Faith's LET GOD LEAD motto. I've pretty much fallen into the right things without knowing a lick, and I truly believe it is because God gave me the grace to listen to His voice inside my heart, even as I denied His existence.

Angela Ackerman said...

I have genius envy, lol.

I am no genius however, but I love to learn. Some things I pick up on quickly, others I have to work hard for. But the best think is that satisfaction of adding to the well, you know?

Happy writing, Marcia!

Marcia said...

Faith -- Yes, if it were all about me, it would feel hollow. It's wonderful that your simple but profound goal has led you to such good writing.:)

Barbara -- That's a wonderful point about working at it over and over. Tapping into genius doesn't mean we get it right the first time, that's for sure!

Vijaya -- Well, one thing he wrote that surprised me was that research showed gifted children were statistically bigger and healthier than average. As was I. (I'm a very average sized adult, though.) You know, I believe there is a connection to the word genie.

Angela -- Yes, I have that mental image of adding to the well, too. One of the wonderful things about being a writer is it keeps you learning.

Mary Witzl said...

I grew up with geniuses, but they were people who put hot dog buns in boiling water (because they got the instructions wrong) and did other off-the-wall things, like wearing mismatched socks and skirts with the hems half out. Because of this, I had an image of geniuses being people without common sense. Of course, I've come to see that I only had part of the picture.

I believe we all have a stream we can tap from if we choose, but that we still have to work hard to know what to tap and in what way we can shape it. My stream seems to be buried under a great layer of stubborn ego, but I think I'm just about at the richest seam now. Whether I'll be able to use it well remains to be seen, but I'm full of hope. ;)

Marcia said...

Mary -- I do think the lacking common sense thing has some basis in reality, or it wouldn't be the cliche it is. It makes sense that when people think or see the world very differently from most, they just don't do the expected. Wasn't it Einstein who phoned his wife and asked, "Where am I, and where am I meant to be?"

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

What a wonderful post, Marcia. I am fascinated with the idea that genius is a guiding spirit, like an angel. I may have to feed mine leftover Valentines Day treats. Bribery? Perhaps. : )

Marcia said...

Cynthia -- I'm so encouraged by divine guidance, so glad +I+ don't have to do this on my own. You mean you'll not be keeping the chocolates for another day? :)