One percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration 

Thomas Edison’s quote “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration” is quite famous and is often used to inspire people to work hard.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Indeed, everyone who want to achieve their goals should strive to overcome whatever challenges life throws at them.  But the interesting question is – would you still call that genius?  Over the last year, I have read several books on this topic, including The Creating Brain: The Neuroscience of Genius, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business and my most recent favorite Think Like an Artist: and Lead a More Creative, Productive Life.  These books go into great depths in their exploration of how people can teach themselves not only be creative, but also do it in a strategic way that would allow their efforts to bring profit.

The most recent example I remember is the comparison of Vincent van Gogh vs. Picasso.  Both were very talented artists, but Van Gogh spent most of his life in isolation and poverty and his works became famous only after his death.  Picasso, on the other hand, led a productive life while enjoying the benefits of high social circles of Paris.  What is little known, however, is that he started out as a great imitator,  copying great works of previous arts with slight twists.  It wasn’t until he began to synthesize his knowledge of different styles and techniques of painting that brought him his success.  And this was no accident.  Picasso dedicated a lot of time and effort to finding a niche in which he could differentiate himself from his great predecessors.  So in a sense, it was not so much about him being “gifted”.

Learning such backstories of the great artists was quite enlightening.  But it also begs a question – what does it take for a person to really be called a genius?  Does it imply that they start out as a wunderkind and achieve success easily through their inherent abilities?  Is it more about nature and not so much nurture?

With these thoughts in the back of my mind, I recently stumbled upon this article on book writing that tipped me over the edge.  In summary, the article presents a potential algorithm for writing the next bestseller books.  Studies of previous successful writers allowed researchers to distill the essential elements a book needs to hit the highest ranks.  While it is a great achievement on the part of literary academics, it puts the human qualities into question.  What brings value to a piece of art – the heart and soul of the artist or a calculated approach to success?

Daily Prompt:  Popular

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