"Scenius" and the Challenges of a Creative Career
I recently discovered two terrific books about creativity by Austin Kleon: Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work. The latter was particularly resonant, given the kinds of conversations I've been having with guests on my podcast and the personal/artistic journey that I've been taking over the last couple of years. Both books are quick and simple reads, but are rich with ideas and inspiration.
One of the concepts in Show Your Work that resonated with me most was the idea of tapping into a "scenius," a world Kleon borrowed (he would probably say "stole") from Brian Eno. The first chapter, "You Don't Have to Be a Genius," reflects on the idea that great creative ideas are borne through one's interaction with a group of creatives—a scene—that makes up an "ecology of talent," rather than the idea of an artist as the "lone genius" toiling away in some isolated creative headspace.
"Scenius doesn't take away from the achievements of those great individuals; it just acknowledges that good work isn't created in a vacuum, and that creativity is always, in some sense, a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds." - Austin Kleon
The New York School of composers is a good examples of scenius in recent music history. An advantage of the digital age is that scenes are easily found and cultivated online through websites and social media. An "ecology of talent" is exactly what I've been after with the podcast. The artists I've had on the podcast have all been people I found through an interest in their work. Through our discussions we get to "stand in the stream" together.
I thought I would ask Austin Keon to be on my show, but then I found an interview with him on a podcast by Jeff Goins: The Portfolio Life.
Turns out, he asks exactly the same questions that I would have asked. I highly recommend checking out Jeff's podcast!
I've wondered, given that I have precious little time to devote to creative pursuits with everything else going on in my home life and work, if I should hang up the microphone and headphones and simply carry on with my work having been refreshed and rejuvenated by the podcasting experience. After reading Kleon's book, I realize that my podcast is a necessary part of finding/generating creative ideas and a way to make meaningful connections with my "scene." So, at least for now, I'm going to keep standing in the stream.