Scenius

There are a lot of destructive myths about creativity, but one of the most dangerous is the ‘lone genius’ myth…There is a healthier way of thinking about creativity that musician Brian Eno refers to as ‘scenius.’ Under this model, great ideas are often birthed by a group of creative individuals – artists, curators, thinkers, theorists, and other tastemakers – who make up an ‘ecology of talent.’ If you look back closely at history, many of the people who we think of as lone geniuses were actually part of ‘a whole scene of people who were supporting each other, looking at teaching other’s work, copying from each other, stealing ideas, and contributing ideas.’ Scenius doesn’t take away from the achievements of those great individuals; it just acknowledges that good work isn’t created in a vacuum, and that creativity is always, in some sense, a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds.

-Austin Kleon, Show Your Work, pp. 9, 11

To be a part of a ‘scenius’ you have to recognize what is happening in your field and be a part of the give and take. You then have to figure out what is lacking in what is happening and see if you can contribute to fill in that gap.

You might replace the idea of scene with ‘movement.’ Folks are fond, especially within Christianity these days, of calling things movements, though I’m not really a fan of that term. The idea is to figure out the big movements, take what you can from them, and contribute what you can based on what you’ve seen to be lacking.

If your a writer or artist or even preacher, do you have a scene? Are you a part of something? Biblical theology is a major scene at the moment. Have you looked at that scene hard enough to see what’s lacking? Everyone recognizes the need for narrative-makers. What’s lacking in that? How can you take other people’s ideas and contribute what’s lacking?

The idea is that you may not, and don’t have to be, a genius. But you can be part of a scenius. You can make a big contribution if you can read the times we live in and contribute something that is needed. And you don’t have to do it alone. If there is an ‘ecology of talent,’ then adding one little thing to it can change the environment, just as adding frogs to a frogless habitat can change the environment. What can you add?

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