Listen to TED: Three TED Talks Every Creative Needs to Watch
We all know YouTube is a time suck. You go on there to watch one video about the placement of commas, and an hour later you’re watching a video of Taylor Swift’s “Trouble” spliced with a hollering goat and you can’t figure out for the life of you how you got there. Despite it’s Twilight Zone quality, YouTube is an awesome site. I’ve used it to find resources for clients, to learn how to beat my face to the gawds and for motivational videos to get me out of bed in the morning. But one of my absolute favourite channels is TED Talks. For those not in the loop, TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a set of conferences held worldwide where speakers who are experts in their fields share their most important and inspiring ideas. Speakers have included everyone from Bill Gates to Ariana Huffington to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
The best part is that all the talks are available on YouTube for my favourite price of $free.99. While not every TED Talk I’ve listened to has been my cup of tea (and why should I expect them all to be?), they’ve all been interesting and really well done. But there have been some that felt like they were delivered just for me. As a writer, I’ve found three TED Talks that I’ve watched more than once and will probably return to from time to time, and if you’re a creative you should probably take these in too.
1. For When Procrastination is Kicking My Ass (Inside The Mind of a Master Procrastinator – Tim Urban)
I don’t know about you, but I’m a master procrastinator. I am an expert at leaving things to the last minute. I’ve got the art of putting things off down to a science. I really wish I wasn’t this way, but it’s almost like it’s a part of my creative process. Every time I’ve tried to be proactive and get a head start on something, I’m left staring at a blank page and a blinking cursor like some sort of fool. So I scroll on my phone, paint my toenails, and twiddle my thumbs while the sense of impending doom kicks in. The hours tick by, the deadline looms, and I’m still somehow uninspired. And then like a bolt of lightning, tinged with a good dose of panic, inspiration strikes me and I produce the piece that had been eluding me for hours.
I knew I couldn’t be the only person who felt that way, but the first time I heard someone explain what was going on inside of my head was during Tim Urban’s TED Talk, “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator.” I watched the whole video going, “Yup, that’s me!” He’s both witty and honest about his own shortcomings as he describes the three characters taking residence in his head and the heads of procrastinators like myself: the rational decision maker, the instant gratification monkey, and the panic monster. It sounds silly, but it makes perfect sense, and his hard hitting truth wrapped up in humour and personal stories really helped me feel more inclined to get a handle on my procrastinating ways. That’s not to say I’ve done it yet, but it’s on my list.
2. For When Creativity Feels Way Too Heavy (Your Elusive Creative Genius – Elizabeth Gilbert)
Ok, my creative friends, let’s be real for a minute. Do you ever feel like your art is making you just a tiny bit crazy? I promise you’re not the only one. Creatives, especially writers, have a long and well-documented history of being just a little bit unusual. We’re neurotic, extremely self-critical, and prone to bouts of misery. We enjoy the high of producing something we love, until we start to question if it’s really worth loving. On the other hand, we’re shocked by some of the work we’ve done and can’t believe that came out of us. Being a creative is a roller coaster ride of pride and doubt and the never ending fear of failure.
In her TED Talk, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the wildly successful book, “Eat, Pray, Love” discusses the sense of distress creatives across all genres feel when it comes to success. Before we achieve it, we think, “I’ll never be any good!” After we’ve got it, we lament, “What if I’m never this good again?!” That kind of worry has been enough to drive far too many writers to drink, drugs and suicide. Up until watching this TED Talk, I’d just accepted that stress and neuroticism were just inescapable side effects of my life as a writer, but Elizabeth Gilbert dared to say she’s not cool with the idea of creativity and suffering going hand-in-hand. The solution she suggests sounds far-fetched unless you’re a creative, but I promise, if art of any kind flows through your veins, it’s going to resonate with you and it just might help you sleep a little easier tonight.
3. For When You Work Yourself into a Rut (My Year of Saying Yes to Everything – Shonda Rhimes)
I fell in love with Shonda Rhimes sometime during my marathon binge sessions of Grey’s Anatomy. I watched 12 seasons, 24 episodes each, in 6 weeks. I am not ashamed. Shonda is that good. She’s made me laugh, cry and scream at my TV. I begged her not to hurt my favourite characters, break up my favourite relationships, or destroy any part of her fictional world that I loved. Shonda has the power. Between Grey’s, How to Get Away With Murder, Scandal, and Private Practice, the woman has locked down a night of television and secured her place as a titan of media. Sorry, the titan of media. I look at Shonda and I see an unstoppable object, an immovable force, the unrivaled benchmark. I know of course, that Shonda could not have been perfect, but imagine my surprise to hear her ask, “What do you do when the thing you do, the work you love, starts to taste like dust?”
Shonda keeps it all the way real in this poetic and powerful speech. She is as witty as you’d expect from a writer with her reputation, but it’s her raw and candid discussion of conquering fears, curbing her workaholic tendencies, and keeping the joy in her career alive that really hits home. This speech is a reminder that, even if the creative work you’re producing is life changing and the whole world is depending on you to make it happen, you can’t succeed without acknowledging the importance putting the work down, putting yourself first and taking the time to do what feels good. If you’ve ever been burnt out by your craft or feel on the verge of it, you need to watch this TED Talk.
If you’re into TED Talks, do you have a fave? Did any of these resonate with you? Let me know in the comments!