Genius vs Scenius: rediscovering the creative process

The genius vs scenius dichotomy has profoundly changed the way I think of creative process. I first heard about it in Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work!

In this book, Kleon decodes one of the most common myths about creativity: the existence of a “genius”; someone who is extremely talented person and is able to create anything from scratch and without any influence. Someone who has a direct connection to the muse or some sort of divine entity.

This is impossible.

Creating something without influence is unrealistic. Talent is the result of practice, of betting on long-term goals and of compounding. Inspiration has nothing to do with muses or divinity. It comes from intentional discipline.

There is no genius in the formula to success. That’s where “scenius” comes into play, proposing a more integrative approach.

So what is scenius?

It’s a term coined by Brian Eno and refers to the “communal form of creating”, where great ideas are often birthed within a group of individuals: artists, curators, thinkers, theorists, and other tastemakers. Together, they make up an ecology of talent.

Scenius acknowledges that work isn’t created in a vacuum. It’s actually the result of a mind connected to other minds.

Being a valuable part of a scenius is not necessarily about how smart or talented you are, but about what you have to contribute–the ideas you share, the quality of the connections you make, and the conversations you start.

austin kleon

You don’t have to be good. You don’t have to be a genius. You need to find a scene and share your ideas with others to enrich your own knowledge and creative process.

How are you finding your scenius?