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Earlier today I went to an art exhibit called “Self-Reflected” with my friend Michael. If you go to the Baber Room in the Park Library here at CMU, there’s this collection of really amazing photographs by Aimee Brasseur. Every picture is of her in different scenes depicting an emotion, memory or side of herself, which are some of the best self-portraits I’ve seen in a while. (Seriously, if you’re in Mount Pleasant anytime now till March 6, I recommend stopping by, because they’re beautiful and thought-provoking pictures.) Anyway, I started analyzing one of the photographs we were looking at, and by the time I was done telling Michael what I thought the picture meant, he just shrugged and said he guessed I was right.

According to him, he wasn’t good at analyzing art even though he’d taken an art class once. Michael then went on to say that he’s better at understanding the meaning behinds songs since he writes music in his spare time. Then he said something I find rather fascinating: He’s heard there are musicians who are better at analyzing songs, but they’re not good at coming up with artistic ideas for their album covers. Additionally there are artists, like painters and photographers, who on the other hand are “happy listening to songs as they are” without understanding what the lyrics are saying. It’s audio versus imagery. I know that people learn through different methods – by listening, seeing, writing, or doing, et cetera – but it has never really occurred to me that artistic people differentiate in the way they comprehend art.

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That seems ridiculous to me now, considering that my friend Shayla who’s a graphic design major, has told me on several occasions she wished she could write. On the contrary, there have are times I’m jealous of her “scribbles” which look like tiny but cool art pieces you could display to the public. Then again, I personally find it equally easy to analyze pictures, stories, songs and poems. So I think the point I’m trying to make is that it’s mind-boggling how talent and creativity aren’t the same thing as the ability to interpret art, or literature and poetry for that matter. That’s something I’ve kind of known in the back of my mind; for instance, some of my beta readers (those reading my novel drafts) are mostly people who don’t write and they don’t always give me the in-depth critique I crave. Nonetheless, it’s interesting seeing it show in people who are creative and talented.

In addition to this little epiphany of mine, this week I’ve thought back to some TED Talks I saw a few years ago that talked about creativity and imagination. A lot of times when you talk about art, writing, about creating anything, fear is always present. It’s like a gnome that waltzes into the room, settles down somewhere and spits paper balls on your head. I want to leave you guys with this video showing Elizabeth Gilbert talking about the muse.

I think I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: The muse is rare. No, actually… it’s a lie. A God-damn lie. Gilbert argues there’s something to it, though, and I like how she tells her theory.

Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.