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