Is genius born (like Kerouac) or made?

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I read an interesting article on Brain Pickings recently on whether genius is born or made. For the record, Jack Kerouac thought they were born. (Interesting subpoint in that Jack Kerouac’s writing rules include point 29, “You’re a genius all the time”. I wonder if he was being ironic?) What’s more, the article tells us that he was of the same mind to Joni Mitchell, in that talent comes from “unescapable sorrow”. So, bad news for those of us writing our books in a semi-normal, only reasonably-messed up way because they both believed you had to be in a really, really bad place to do great art. As Joni said, “an artist needs a certain amount of turmoil and confusion“.

But maybe it’s all in the way you look at things as to how bad things are. After all, one person’s mountain is another person’s molehill. Or maybe as Kerouac demonstrates, you just need to believe that you’re a genius. Even if you’re not, you might just create something genius in the process.


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4 thoughts on “Is genius born (like Kerouac) or made?

  1. I think it’s born, but must be nurtured. All people need to learn so they can have the tools of their trade. There are plenty of geniuses who make no impact because they are TOO messed up. I sometimes wonder if it’s a curse or a blessing to be intelligent. I am sure there are some normal, if there is such a thing, people who would qualify for the term.

    • It’s interesting, isn’t it? Writers like Stephen King and Ian McEwan think you can do a lot with a writer if they have something to start with… let’s hope we do! Ellen

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