Creative Genius

Yesterday a friend mentioned, jokingly, that, once again, he was bypassed for the MacArthur genius grant. Yup. Me too.

But wait. Another person’s success can guide and catalyze you.

I have been a genius at parenting, teaching, writing. I have also been an utter and complete failure.

The problem with lone geniuses? In my opinion, there’s no such thing. All geniuses need a partner, a team, a band.

The Beatles created their great work when they competed against each other. On 60 Minutes last week, Paul McCartney talked about feeling competitive in his songwriting with John Lennon.

“If he’d have written [‘Strawberry Fields Forever’], I would write ‘Penny Lane’, you know, and it’s – he’s remembering his old area in Liverpool, so I’ll remember mine.”

So genius entails walking the streets of our childhood and young adulthood. One of my adult students has asked me to offer a writing workshop on the subject of sexual abuse and survival. So many of us have memories dredged to the surface during these Senate Supreme Court hearings.

I am figuring out how to offer this. Because writing about our vulnerabilities from a childhood place is a way into genius, but you have to feel safe.

How safe are you today? How vulnerable can you be in your art?

And another thing — Who among your friends is not a genius? I know that all of my friends are geniuses and worthy of reward.

What is genius?
What does genius have to do with creativity?

This I know: Intense emotions and pursuit of healing can lead to artistic acts of genius. So I will leave you with these two thoughts:

“Sometimes one of the great things [that] motivates a song is anguish.” -Sir Paul McCartney.

“The creative adult is the child who has survived.” – Julian Fleron

One of my personal heroes, Rev. William J. Barber II, a winner in this year’s 2018 MacArthur Genius awards.

My Country Song

At our lunch time creative writing workshop, Dan Licardo, an awesome musician and novelist, talked about songwriting.

He said a song can include rhyme. The message of a song can be more direct and easily understood than other types of writing. So I tried my hand at songwriting on my lunch hour. Here’s how my song went:

creative commons
Your face reminded me of the sun
Bright and sweet and always on the run
You run so fast, you run so far
You run and steal my Chevy car
I called my daddy, I called the cop
But they couldn’t find you
Not even in the hills of Vermont

I took my gun, I went on the run
I run down to the Virginia-ay shore
And there I found you with a two-bit whore

She had her legs and arms around my baby
I squinted my eye, I pulled the trigger
But you said, “Honey, Honey, I mean maybe?
Give me ‘nother chance?”

I’m seeing red,
And that floozy in the motel room
She got up and fled
But you lay there all weak and sad and mad
Like the moon, behind a cloud,
You went all bad

Honey, you went bad on me
Now I’m going bad on you
Because there’s just some things
My man ain’t supposed to do
The first is steal my Chevrolet car

That’s the first step you took 
just a little too far
The second is you left me all alone
With the babies and the dishes
You think you really flown?

Ha, you ain’t seen nothing
Sniveling on that bed
Pale and begging and, oh so red

Caught red-handed, I put down my gun
I take my car keys, then take your clothes
Just for fun

Don’t come back like the morning sun
Don’t come back when you’re broke
‘Cause my babies need a pappy
Not a two-bit joke

Plus I’m a little honey 
who needs a little bit a love
So I got me an ad on Craigslist
Gonna find some new sun shining from above

So that’s the woman’s part of my song. And then the man’s part comes in:

In the field there was a daisy
But you only saw me like I’m crazy
Yes, honey, I did you wrong
I took up with a honey on the wrong side of town

But you knew I loved the nightlife
I loved the song and the show
I told you that when we married, oh so long ago

When the babies started coming
And you just wouldn’t stop
I tried to re-enlist in the Army
And head back to Iraq

But they didn’t take me
You know I loved your hair, long and red
And I’m sorry that you caught me
With your sister in that cheap motel bed.

We thought we were done for
But you spared me and that debt I will repay
Just one more thing
Can you send me some bail money?
And then I’ll be on my way