It was in Vienna at Belvedere Castle, standing in front of Gustov Klimt painting The Kiss, when it dawned on me that genius takes time. I can identify Klimt’s famous paintings, the ones that grace the front of boxed note cards in museum gift shops around the world. In fact, my wedding ring sits in a metal box I received from my sister with The Kiss embossed on the top. Still, nothing prepared me for the glittering splendor and size of his original work. My daughter and I stood in front of the painting transfixed. It glowed, not just because of the actual gold in the paint, but because of it’s splendid use of shapes and movement. It glowed with unadulterated genius. We could have stood there for an hour, but others were waiting for their turn, so we stepped aside and went to view the other paintings in the room.
I wished the artist was alive so I could ask just one question. What happened to you as an artist that transported you from the ordinary painter of the woman in the portrait to the original, shiny, geometric form of art the world had never seen? Was it another artist, some life event, or a trip to a faraway land that transformed your creative process? That instant, when Klimt experimented and transformed his art interests me because I believe that the moment of innovative genius is possible. It happens when we go from following our old tried and true, familiar patterns into the unknown. The moment when we say, “Oh hell, I’m going to jump.” Or, “this is really weird but I kind of like it.” Or even, “I can’t believe I trained my whole life to be X, but now I want to be Y.”
At the heart of creativity is the courage to veer off course. To banish the inner critic that urges us to stay on the obvious path. To quiet past “voices of authority” that told us what to do, and instead to jump into the unknown. To trust ourselves and be brave enough to choose our own path.
My guess is that Gustov Klimt had the courage to veer off course at some point after he painted the portrait that looked like every other artist of his time. I bet and that you’ve had those moments too. I know I have, however, mine didn’t lead to hundreds of people waiting in line to marvel at my genius, but the times I actually listened and had the courage to veer off course, my life changed.
As I stood between the two portraits tears of gratitude pooled in my eyes. My daughter asked what was wrong, and I said, “Look, he went from this to that and I turned and pointed at The Kiss, it proves that anything is possible!”
Think of a before and after example from your own life. A time when you had the courage to veer off course, when you were able to silence the voices of others and trust your inner guide. Take ten minutes and write about that time. Or turn on music and dance in celebration, acknowledging your courage. You could write a poem, or plant a flower, or whatever comes to mind. The point is to do something to commemorate the fact that you did it. You took a step off the ordinary path of your life, held hands with your creative soul and forged ahead.
Is there a situation in your life right now where you feel stuck in an old pattern, is a relationship or a project, or a decision hanging in limbo, not getting better or worse, just holding steady in an uninspired pause. Be brutally honest with yourself. Nobody is going to see this list. Think of five words that describe how you feel stuck in this ordinary uninspired place. Then, make a list of five words that describe how you want to feel, what you want to reach for. Last step is to decide three things you could do to move from being stuck to how you’d like to feel. Then pick one of them and do it today!