Back in the home studio with my faster computer I’m doing some of those personality inventory tests on line. According to the “Keirsey Temperament Sorter,” for example, I’m what they call an “Idealist Champion.” This gives me an idea of who I am, where I’m happiest, what sort of a mate I ought to have, etc. What I really want to know is what I’m good for. To put it with a little less humility — am I a genius?
A lot of us would really like to know whether we’re cut out for it. The “sorter” in our business is the quality of our work. It’s been my experience that we can be introverts, extroverts, care-givers, or self-centered boors, and still be damned good artists. What is it that gives some of us the touch of genius? To my knowledge there’s no written test. Perhaps someone in some Psychology Department is saying, “Research needs to be done on this.”
While we can’t say what genius is, exactly, there’s a bit to be learned by what bright folks say about it. There’s more than one side to genius, of course, but it seems to me there’s remarkable agreement: “Genius is nothing but a great aptitude for patience.” (George-Louis De Buffon) “Genius is one percent inspiration, and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” (Thomas Edison) “Genius is not a possession of the limited few, but exists in some degree in everyone. Where there is natural growth, a full and free play of faculties, genius will manifest itself.” (Robert Henri) “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.” (Aldous Huxley) “Genius is the infinite capacity for taking pains.” (Jane Hopkins) “Genius, the power which dazzles human eyes, is oft but perseverance in disguise.” (Henry W. Austin)
Okay, back to work.
PS: “The modes of expression of men of genius differ as much as their souls, and it is difficult to say that in some among them, drawing and color are better or worse than in others.” (Auguste Rodin)
Esoterica: You can take the Keirsey test at http://www.keirsey.com/. In 36 questions you are measured for sensation, feeling, judgement, intuition, thinking, perception and other traits. “It takes a lot of time to be a genius. You have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.” (Gertrude Stein)
This letter was originally published as “A touch of genius” on February 12, 2002.