Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
April 18, 2012 8:07 AM

Learning About Creativity

There must be something in the air.

While I am no Julien Smith when it comes to reading books, I am doing my best to maintain a high pace of book reading. I recently started digging into Imagine - How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer and it took me aback when I realized that I've been reading a whole bunch of books on creativity and I have a whole bunch of new books in my Kindle on the same topic. I consider myself a creative-type, but I'm often fascinated with both where ideas comes from and if there's anything I can do to help myself come up with even bigger ideas. In the end, what we learn is that creativity isn't only a mystery, but it's something that consumes those who create on a full-time basis.

Whether you consider yourself a creative or not, here are some books on creativity that are well worth checking out: 

  • The Creative Habit - Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp. I bought this book after seeing that Julien Smith had read it and recommended it. I had a lot of apprehension with it, because I'm not shy to admit that out of all of the arts, I struggle with dance and what it's all about. Not only have I never been to the ballet, but I've put in the time to experience dance on TV, I've been to a friend's recital and I've even watched documentaries on the topic. I can appreciate what the dancers and choreographers are doing, but I'm just not into the experience of it. That being said, I enjoyed this book. Tharp tells some great stories and re-iterates the commitment and hard work that is the true root of creativity.
  • Freedom Is Blogging In Your Underwear - Hugh MacLeod. I love everything that Hugh MacLeod does over at gapingvoid. This book isn't out yet, but I just pre-ordered it on my Kindle and I'm looking forward to diving in. MacLeod makes you push your life to be a little bit more rough around the edges. Getting creative has a lot to do with getting a little bit uncomfortable with your life as you know it to date. I'm sure there is some kind of link between the freedom of blogging in your underwear and doing the work that really matters in your life.
  • Imagine - How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer. Lehrer is the best-selling author of How We Decide and Proust Was A Neuroscientist. In this book, he examines everything from how our brains work to how we make decisions to help us understand where creativity comes from and why creativity is such a powerful force in our world. I'm about 25% through this book and I'm loving the way Lehrer blends the science of the brain with the mystery of art and what attracts us to it.
  • In-Genius - A Crash Course on Creativity by Tina Seelig. I have yet to read this book (it just came out this week), but it is cued up on my Kindle. I saw this book in the Kindle store and, to be blunt, the copy just spoke to me. Seelig has impressive credentials (executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, the director of the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation, and a faculty member at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University School of Engineering). If the book is half as good as her credentials, this should be a gem!
  • Spark - How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein. I loved Burstein's approach to this book. Over the years, she has interviewed hundreds of people we would define as "creative." In Spark, she walks through some of these amazing stories. It's a true collage of the creative process and how our different experiences truly do spark new ideas that capture the attention of mass audiences. I was also fortunate to see Burstein speak at this past year's TED conference and we even managed to record a podcast together (you can hear it here: SPOS #297 - The Hard Work Of Creativity With Julie Burstein).
  • Steal Like An Artist - Austin Kleon. I'm a fan of small, well-designed books that can be read quickly, but that are filled with magical gems. This seems like one of them. It was sent over to me as a gift by Ricardo Bueno (thank you!). The title says it all: great artists steal... they take ideas from all over the place and turn them into something magical and new. Without inspiration, there is no creativity. Inspiration comes to us in the many shapes and forms of creativity that we expose ourselves to. It seems like this book is filled with ways for us to think about stealing (in the best possible way).

Before you read those books, here are my two staples for getting creative:

Which books on creativity have captured your attention? 

On May 22nd - 24th, 2012, the C2 MTL event will be hosted in Montreal. This event's content is focused on the intersection of creativity and commerce (two topics near and dear to my heart). I'll not only be attending this event, but sharing the stage with Arianna Huffington (The Huffington Post) to help her launch a new project called, GPS For The Soul. Take a look at some of the other speakers and sessions and think about making the trip to my hometown to spend a few days immersing yourself into the power of creativity. I can't wait to take part. You can also enter a contest to win a ticket (and learn more about creativity) right here: C2 MTL contest (full disclosure: my agency, Twist Image, created this contest and is handling social media marketing for C2 MTL).

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Josh Muirhead
    Mitch Joel

    First, best of luck with the event on May 22 - I see that the main package is already sold out.

    Now, I often find some of the best creative thinking comes from TED - and since the launch of TED Books, I've had the pleasure of reading different ideas.

    In addition to a few of TED Books, I'm currently reading a lot of Biographies. Although not directly connected to "creativity" it's amazing to "see" how some of the most innovative people in our generation (and other generations) found their creativity, and persevered through struggles.

    Thanks for the list Mitch, I'll have to check out a few as I too am trying the Julien Smith challenge (although I won't come close)

    Reply
  • Posted by Julia Forsyth
    Mitch Joel

    Thanks for the post Mitch, even if you don't consider yourself creative I think it's important to get inspired occasionally, go to concerts, hear good music, experience new things, it definitely broadens your mind. I appreciate the list, I'm just adding these to my reading list today!

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    These posts about books are getting costly for me! Just ordered several from your list. I loved "Imagine" and blogged about it. I'd add "Ignore Everyone" by Hugh MacLeod.

    Reply
  • Posted by Grace Montage
    Mitch Joel

    For most of us, creativity is a habit for getting out in our comfort zone. The books listed here provides opportunities to unleash our individual creativity. I'm interested in the In-Genius - A crash course on creativity book. After I watched the related video from Amazon.com, I'm enthusiastic on what this book has to offer and how creativity could be useful in our everyday lives.

    Reply
  • Posted by Charlotte
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, I was absolutely in need of this post. I've been following a couple of creative sites that have book lists (Chuck Palahniuk's 'The Cult' and Brain Pickings) which both discuss new books on the creative process but have not found as good a list as you have here.

    Will have to get my Kindle app fired up! ;)

    Reply
  • Posted by Rob
    Mitch Joel

    My favorite, by far, is Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie. No other book captures the un-capturableness (to coin a term) of creativity quite like this one. It's an honest look at the challenge of being creative within a corporation. Worth reading more than once.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mark Dykeman
    Mitch Joel

    I love Advantage Play by David Ben. It uses professional or stage magic as a means to describe creative problem solving. It's not a flashy book but I've found lots of great insights from reading it.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jayme Soulati
    Mitch Joel

    Thanks for the list, but I have one question...where to you take the time from to read like this?

    Reply
  • Posted by Tony Bennett
    Mitch Joel

    Although overly-simplistic, I unleash my inner child when I want to be creative. After all, it's been said the creative adult is a child that survived.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Usually I am pretty skeptical of books about creativity especially when crossing paths with pop science. Describing how creativity has been done in the past and further developing the mythology around the practice has become an all too common narrative. And not sure what it really achieves? So glad to see Austin Kleon's Steal like an Artist on the list (Art school in less than 20 mins) and totally blown away by Mark Levy's practical free-writing tips... looks like I just may be going through this whole list now!

    Reply
  • Posted by Martin Exner
    Mitch Joel

    I would like to know if creativity means not reading books and instead designing/playing/constructing? I think the schoolbook writers and publishers should design their books to suit a creative learning style instead of the other way around. Take this book for instance: http://constructingkids.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/book-review-how-machines-work-build-your-own-working-models/ It's 50% book 50% constructing kit that teaches kids about mechanics and machines. Thats how I would like school-books to be! Totally Seymore Papert!

    Reply
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