Albert Einstein’s Secret To a Creative Life

Do you think of Albert Einstein as a creative? He was.Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in 1921

His left brain was hard at work in the fields of physics and mathematics. His right brain assisted the left in developing his theories.

He was exposed to music early in life and learned to play the violin. He fell in love with Mozart’s Sonatas and is quoted as saying, “Love is a better teacher than a sense of duty.”

A love of art in any form allows creativity to flow in the interpretation of the medium.

Einstein, himself, can explain his secret better via this  summary of a story I read about him.

In 1955, Jerome Weidman, a novelist, screenwriter and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who died in 1998, met Albert Einstein at a dinner party hosted by a New York philanthropist.

After dinner,  the guests were led to a room lined with gilded chairs and a setup for musicians. Jerome was immediately uncomfortable realizing he was about to be entertained with chamber music.

It wasn’t that Jerome didn’t want to enjoy music; he just couldn’t. He closed his ears from the inside as the music played and turned his thoughts to anything but music.

After a while he realized people were clapping. He decided it was safe to unplug his ears and he joined them in their applause. A voice next to him said, “Are you fond of Bach?”

Jerome turned to his neighbor and looked into this man’s extraordinary eyes.  He knew he couldn’t lie to this man…Albert Einstein. Jerome explained that he had never heard Bach’s music and didn’t know anything about him. Besides, all music sounded like just a lot of arranged noise.

“It isn’t that I don’t want to like Bach, it’s just that I’m tone deaf and I’ve never really heard anybody’s music.”

At that, Einstein’s face took on a look of serious concern. He took Jerome by the arm, led him upstairs to a book-lined study and closed the door.

Einstein began to question Jerome about his feelings toward music.  “Tell me, please, is there any kind of music that you do like?”

“Well, I like songs with words and the kind of music where I can follow the tune. I like almost anything by Bing Crosby”

Einstein smiled and nodded, “Good!”
Einstein went to the phonograph and put on a record of Bing Crosby. After a few phrases, he lifted the needle and said, “Now, will you tell me, please, what you just heard?”

For Jerome the simplest answer was to sing the words back to Einstein. He sang it the best he could and the look on Einstein’s face ‘was like the sunrise’. “You see? You do have an ear!”

Jerome thought that was nonsense. Einstein used an analogy to explain it for Jerome. “Do you remember your first arithmetic lesson in school? Suppose at your very first contact with numbers, your teacher had ordered you to work out a problem in, say, long division or fractions. Could you have done so?”

Jerome answered, “No, of course not.”

“Precisely!” Einstein made a triumphant wave with his arm. “It would have been impossible and you would have reacted in panic. You would have closed your mind to long division and fractions. As a result, your whole life would be devoid of the beauty of long division.”

Einstein continued to explain that a teacher would normally begin with something more elementary and increase the difficulty as the boy gained skills.
He likened the Bing Crosby music to simple addition and told Jerome they would go on to something more complicated.

With each more difficult set of musical phrases, Jerome sang them all back to Einstein. Einstein was thrilled with Jerome’s progress. “Now you are ready for Bach!”

Back in the music room with the other guests, Einstein whispered to Jerome,

“Just allow yourself to listen. That is all.”

When the concert was over, Jerome was genuinely applauding his praise. The hostess came over to chastise Einstein for missing so much of the performance.

Einstein and Jerome jumped to the feet to apologize. Einstein said, “I am sorry. My young friend here and I were engaged in the greatest activity of which man is capable.” Einstein put arm around Jerome’s shoulders and said,

“Opening up yet another fragment of the frontier of beauty.

I guess a far shorter way to say this would have been something my 4th grade Nun used to tell us. “Stop walking around with your eyes and ears closed!” In other words, be open to everything beautiful around you. Don’t be afraid to experience or try new things. Creativity will come.

But I like Albert Einstein’s story better.

Creativity

As writers, painters, singers, quilters, woodworkers, cooks or any other creative you can think of, we often told ourselves untruths when we were novices.

Our inner critics would say, “You’ll never be any good at this. Why keep trying? Look at So-and-so over there and how well she’s doing. You should just give up.”

Some take those lies to heart and do give up. Others press on toward success.

The most important advice I read as I was learning the craft of writing a book was this (I’d love to credit the person who said, but I can’t remember who it was):

“Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”

When just finishing my 1st draft, comparing myself to the likes of James Rollins, Stephen King or Christina Dodd is self-defeating.

My most important goals are to be the best I can be, never stop learning, and always be open to discovering new ideas, noticing the beauty of nature and cheering on others who do the same.

What will you do to open up yet another fragment of the frontier of beauty?

What are your most important goals? What lies have you told yourself?

Come back on Friday when Sonia Medeiros will be here!

And don’t forget that June 29th is the One – Year Anniversary of The Life List Club AND it’s Milestone Party time!! Woohoo! 

We Life Listers would like our readers to answer the same question all of us writers will answer: What goal on your Life List has held the most surprise or invoked the most unforeseen benefits/changes?

Post your answer in the comment section of our Milestone Friday post between June 29th and July 6th. The BIG WINNER will be announced on July 6th.

What sort of prize would mean the most to all of you?

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30 responses to “Albert Einstein’s Secret To a Creative Life

  1. I loved this blog – an interesting story that ended with a very true message!

  2. I read the story about Stephen King throwing “Carrie” into the garbage. His wife, Tabitha, pulled it out of the garbage. So, even when I want to trash something, I file it and figure I’ll get back to it. I have given up dozens of times, but I always get a lift from reading a blog, or getting a friendly note or message from a friend. I look at all the struggles of so many writers, and realize I am not alone. Even if I “give up” for a day or two, I’m back at it again before too long.

    • Good for you, Karen! Thank goodness for the internet because writers don’t have to go it alone anymore! We can feel better knowing other writers’ struggles. Keep persevering! Look for that fragment of beauty!

  3. It’s Quote Month in my cybershpere!

    The comparison of your beginning to another’s middle reminds me of Hamlet:

    “To thine own self be true.”

  4. Woot! Just realized, today’s Wildflower post was inspired by, and features, a quote from Einstein. Hope you’ll drop by, Marcia.
    http://sherryisaac.com/2012/06/20/leaving-the-crowd-behind/

  5. The most supportive and inspirational people are usually the achievers. They often have the best advice. This was another inspirational post from you Marcia!

  6. I’ve always adored Einstein for his ability to inspire in others a sense of wonder. That story is so sweet not just because Einstein got a man to really listen, but because Einstein took the time to open up that man’s world. Just think if he’d been too consumed with his own enjoyment of the music, what a missed opportunity. For me, that’s what I get from this. Be open, be creative, be willing to postpone your own enjoyment for the sake of another. Pay it forward, if you will. Lovely post, Marcia!

  7. Thanks, Tameri! That’s what I had hoped would come through with this story! I would love to have known Einstein. What a great example he is!

  8. Simply beautiful. I had never heard the story before and I love it! To always be “open” the beauty of our world is so inspiring. Moved me!

  9. I love Einstein. And I love the saying “Don’t compare your beginning to other people’s middle.” It’s something I really need to remind myself. The journey has to occur to reach a destination, and it’s my journey, not anyone else’s! No need to compare and contrast with other people. This was a definite “feel-good” post! At least, I feel good for having read it. Thank you!

    • That’s right, Lara. You are exactly where you are supposed to be. Don’t waste time on negativity (to take your own words). Mark your progress and smile.

  10. What a lovely story. I suppose I’ve always thought of Einstein as brilliant, but not necessarily giving or compassionate. It’s nice to know I was wrong!

    • I had no idea he was a creative in the field of music. And yes, it is nice to know her was more than a brilliant physicist! Thanks, Diana!

  11. Such a wonderful story, Marcia! I promised myself two years ago that I would try to live with arms wide open and be ready for creative adventures. I had to shed a few things, mostly things and people that were dragging me down and of course my attitude towards myself and my abilities needed a tune-up like Jerome in the story. That took me to signing up for Bob Mayer’s Writer Warrior class and then his loop, and on to the blogging class where I met you to spending a week at Donald Maass’s Intensive and learning that I didn’t totally suck as a writer and I have great ideas. I love meeting all the creatives who come to my blog. It’s been a joyful two years and best of all it’s helped my writing immensely. Thanks for the inspirational post!

    • You’re so welcome, Kate! Thank you for the inspiring comment! The best things about this business are the people you meet and all that you learn!

  12. Wow, the story about Einstein and Jeremy really hit home, Marcia. Too often we don’t get it and give up. I almost did that with story structure. I struggled to understand plot, because that’s where I thought my roadblock was but after studying and struggling, one day my mind opened up and understood what story structure was and how it worked. Amazing!

  13. Love it, Sheila! It’s pretty amazing what we can do and learn if we open the door to it.

  14. Fabulous post, Marcia. I had never heard the story of Einstein and Jerome and was delighted to read it here!

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  17. “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” Yep, I find that I tend to do that. It’s really hard to stop myself. I love the Einstein story though. I’ll be reminding myself of that when that sneaky inner critic rears his ugly head.

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  19. very important story for parents and educators. Thank you.

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