Writing Coach Insights: Frankenstein and Einstein


In light of yesterday’s events, which I will not detail here, I’ve been thinking more about my previous post. The truth is, we are all, in every moment, both Frankenstein and Einstein. Even Einstein was at a loss in the face of certain questions–his dream of the unified field, for example. He worked, frustrated, I’ve heard, at a theory that explained everything–both gravity and quantum phenomena–and the answers to existence itself.

Even after you feel you’ve answered some big question, after some huge light bulb has clicked on above your head, even after E=mc2, new questions arise, and once again, you are a beginner. Even after you write the “great American novel,” or a mind-blowing collection of verse, there is still a blank page.

You cannot stand atop what you have done before. There is no safety in past success. Awards and titles are temporary.

Some call Einstein’s inability to come up with a workable “theory of everything” his greatest failure. No. No. No. Don’t you understand? This was his true brilliance–even after being named a genius by the world, even after he could have sat back and enjoyed his international fame and acclaim, he went back to where he started–a question–and a big, scary, possibly unanswerable question, at that.

When we ask questions, we are vulnerable. We are open. And genius only comes in when we are vulnerable and open.

So, whatever you have written in the past, at this moment, you are no more than a beginner. Whatever accolades you have accumulated, right now, sitting in front of the screen, you are no more than who you are. No matter what difficult life experiences you pulled yourself through, and whatever lessons those experiences taught you, whatever epiphanies you have had, no matter how much stronger you have grown, there are more lessons. There are more experiences. You are never done.

Based on the myth of achievement most of us grow up with in this culture, this probably sounds pessimistic. But no, it is just the opposite. This understanding is an important part of ending the feeling of constant struggle. It is an end to the illusion that once you earn or win or are lucky enough to be given a certain job, a certain lover, a certain piece of jewelry, a certain amount of money, a certain car or house or level of spiritual understanding, you will finally and forever be happy.

True genius, a deep and authentic sense of creativity, and yes, happiness itself, is only possible if, at some level, you accept the process of constantly becoming, if you know yourself to be both Frankenstein and Einstein–because only the beginner’s mind is capable of genius. Answers only come to those who are willing to say, “I don’t know.”