Did Pablo Picasso Paint Fakes? The Question of Creativity.

For some reason, I keep thinking about a story I read several years ago, in Arthur Koestler’s book, The Act of Creation.

This anecdote caught my attention because it was about a subject that interests me — the mysterious nature of creativity. Plus it had a certain koan-like quality, and boy, do I love a good koan.

This story sounds apocryphal, but Koestler says it’s true:

An art dealer (this story is authentic) bought a canvas signed “Picasso” and travelled all the way to Cannes to discover whether it was genuine. Picasso was working in his studio. he cast a single look at the canvas and said: “It’s a fake.”

A few months later the dealer bought another canvas signed Picasso. Again he travelled to Cannes and again Picasso, after a single glance, grunted: “It’s a fake.”

“But cher maitre,” expostulated the dealer, “it so happens that I saw you with my own eyes working on this very picture several years ago.”

Picasso shrugged: “I often paint fakes.”

I know this feeling well — the uncomfortable feeling that even though a particular piece of my work is original, it nevertheless feels repetitive, imitative, a perfunctory variation on one of my common themes.

And in other situations, too.  Every time I go clothes-shopping, I’m tempted to buy a black cardigan. How many black cardigans does one person need? Not many.

This is always a warning sign to push myself harder, to break through the familiar to something new.

On the other hand, sometimes I re-visit material (like this very story!) many times, because I get something new from it, each time I think about it. Over time, its significance becomes clearer to me. For instance, I write about my personal commandment to “Be Gretchen,” very often, but every time, it’s new to me. But that’s not true of all subjects.

Do you know this feeling — the feeling of painting your own fake?

Thinking About Paris — and What Churchill Said About London on September 11, 1940.

Like  just about everyone, I’ve been following the horrific events in Paris.

And I keep remembering a speech that Winston Churchill gave — on September 11, 1940.

On that date, which many years later would come to be so significant, Churchill gave a broadcast about the “Blitz,” the brutal nightly bombing of London.

Churchill’s words seemed to have been written for our own times:

These cruel, wanton, indiscriminate bombings of London are, of course, a part of Hitler’s invasion plans. He hopes, by killing large numbers of civilians, and women and children, that he will terrorise and cow the people of this mighty imperial city, and make them a burden and anxiety to the Government…Little does he know the spirit of the British nation, or the tough fibre of the Londoners…who have been bred to value freedom far above their lives. This wicked man, the repository and embodiment of many forms of soul-destroying hatred, this monstrous product of former wrongs and shame, has now resolved to try to break our famous Island race by a process of indiscriminate slaughter and destruction. What he has done is to kindle a fire in British hearts, here and all over the world, which will glow long after all traces of the conflagration he has caused in London have been removed.

One of the most extraordinary things about New York City in the period after the attack on the World Trade Center was that, despite the shock and devastation, there was a tremendous mood of morale and determination.

As I was researching and writing my biography of Winston Churchill, Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, I was repeatedly struck by how apt his words seemed to be, for other times and circumstances.

What he has done is to kindle a fire in British hearts, here and all over the world, which will glow long after all traces of the conflagration he has caused in London have been removed.”

The image is the One World Trade Center, here in New York City, with its spire lit with the colors of the French flag.

Secrets of Adulthood: What’s Fun for Other People May Not Be Fun for You–and Vice Versa.

From Further Secrets of Adulthood: What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you–and vice versa.

This sounds so obvious, but it was a huge revelation for me. Even now, I have to remind myself that people go skiing because they honestly want to go skiing, not because they are made from a sterner moral fiber than I am.

The fact is, nothing’s inherently fun. Shopping, drinking wine, watching sports on TV, crossword puzzles…none of these things are fun for me. But they’re fun for other people. Recently I heard from a reader who thinks it’s fun to balance a checkbook! We all have our own ideas of fun.

When I gave up the fantasy that I “should” find these things fun, I gained more time to spend on the things I do find fun — like reading children’s literature.

How about you? What do you find fun, that others don’t necessarily find fun, and what do other people often enjoy, that you don’t?

Podcast 38: Do You Hate Being Told What to Do? Maybe You’re a Rebel.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: For our upcoming Very Special Episode, Holiday edition, we want to hear from you: What is your Try This at Home for staying happier, healthier, and more productive over the holidays? It can be a challenge. So let us know what works for you — for dealing with family, for traveling, for managing temptations, anything. We can all learn from each other.

Today is the fourth in the series of four episodes that we’re devoting to the Four Tendencies.  In last week’s episode, we talked about the Obliger Tendency; this week, it’s Rebel.

To find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel,
take the Four Tendencies quiz here.

Try This at Home: Try to come up with a motto for your Tendency.  Fun!

Strengths and Weaknesses of Rebels:  How to identify and take advantage of the strengths, and counter-balance the weaknesses, of the Tendency.

Striking Pattern of Rebels: Whenever a Rebel is in a long-term relationship, whether romantically or at work, it’s almost always with an Obliger.

Another striking pattern: While Rebels want choice and freedom, some Rebels are drawn to areas of high regulation, such as the military, the police, and the clergy.

Listener Questions: “What are some strategies to use if you have a Rebel child?” “How do Rebels manage their inclination to rebel against themselves?” Plus a Rebel weighs in about how she sticks to her good habits.

The Rebel author I mention is Geoff Dyer. I highly recommend his book Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence as a self-portrait of a Rebel.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth needs to get her car serviced.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I’ve started a new habit: on my Facebook Page, each Sunday evening, I post a photo of all the books I’ve read that week. I love to shine a spotlight on books, and I get a lot of satisfaction from thinking, “Look at what I’ve read.”

Call for comments, questions, observations!

We’ve spent four weeks talking about my Four Tendencies framework for human nature. It has been fascinating. We’ve had so many terrific responses that we’re planning a round-up episode. So if you have more questions or comments, send them in!

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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Happier Podcast #38: Are you a rebel?

We love hearing from listeners

Tell us — did you come up with a motto for your Tendency?

If you’re intrigued by the Four Tendencies, and want to be notified when my handbook on the subject hits the shelves, text me at 66866 and enter the word “tendencies,” I’ll add you to a list to be notified when it’s ready. You can also sign up here.

There are lots of ways to share your responses or questions:

 

To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or click here.

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If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

HAPPIER listening!

Can’t Get Enough of Podcasts? Here’s a List of Interviews.

My sister and I are having so much fun with our new podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin. We’ve had more than 4.2 million downloads, just since March! Zoikes. Thanks, listeners.

And I’m lucky, because in addition to doing that podcast, I’ve also had the chance to be the guest on many other people’s podcasts — which has been terrific. It’s been fascinating to get the chance to talk to so many interesting people.

It’s been an education, too, to see how different people, and different podcasts, approach my material and the podcast format. I’m always intrigued by the different directions that the conversations go in — and I often find myself taking notes as the interview is unfolding, because I don’t want to forget some important new point that the interviewer has brought to my attention.

If you’re thinking, “Gretchen, listening to your podcast isn’t nearly enough for me, I want to hear an interview with you on another podcast,” well, thank you! Here’s a menu to choose from.  As you’ll see, they cover a wide range of perspectives, so you can listen to a discussion focused on health, entrepreneurship, creativity, productivity, general happiness…

 

I’m sure I’ve forgotten to add some terrific podcasts to this list. I’ll continue to update this list as new interviews are released.

Speaking of podcasts, what are some of your favorite podcasts? There is so much terrific material to listen to, it can feel overwhelming. But exciting.