Thursday, June 19, 2014

Group Works: Finding Scenius

The original Inklings met some Tuesday mornings at a local pub in Oxford in the 1930s.  It was a group of writerly types who would read, critique each other’s work, and share ideas. They each had their own spin on the written word and equal love of stories. Everyone brought something special to the table.  All of the members benefited in some way from the exchange and collaboration- some became famous.  You may recognize a few of them:  C.S.Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams to name drop a bit.

Thirty years later in a New York studio, creatives met regularly to share their passion for music, art, and theater.  The studio became known as The Factory and belonged to experimental artist Andy Warhol.  Folks like Salvadore Dali, Truman Capote, and Bob Dylan liked to come “hang out.” They talked, tested out new work, and partied together. Imagine the energy.

History is filled with evidence of collective intelligence and proof that creativity does not occur in a dark silent solitary place.  We feed the creative spirit when we find a group of people who encourage and challenge us to do our best work.  Imagination thrives in the right culture - it is up to us to find that scene.

I have been reading (and loving) Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work! He expanded my thinking and vocabulary to include the word scenius: The intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene . . . the communal form of the concept of genius. Kleon credits musician Brian Eno with naming the concept- each of us has something unique to contribute to one another and we nurture our creative spirit through trusted social exchange. There is a collective intelligence in sharing ideas and making connections.  It is a generosity of creative energy that brings about scenius.

This weekend marks the summer Inklings Retreat.  Our critique group was inspired by the original Oxford Inklings and we aspire to scenius.  We have differing genres of writing, tastes in literature, and perspectives on grammar (!)  But we trust each other enough to share our opinions and barely edited work. We carve out a weekend to connect, inspire, share ideas, eat heartily, drink merrily, and cultivate the creativity within each of us.

Feed your spirit by seeking scenius- it is somewhere waiting for your special talent to spark magic.