Book report

Creativity and Flow

I came to Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, thinking that I already knew what it was.

A fairly dense, though canonical and oft-cited academic work on the psychology of the “flow state”: that rare, almost reverent state of creativity in which the practitioner is totally immersed in what they’re doing.

In this “flow state,” as I understood it, skills are perfectly matched with challenges, and a kind of elevated consciousness is achieved that borders on transcendence. I know this state intuitively; it’s what I often experience when “in the zone,” creatively speaking.

After reading the book, I realised that it covers a lot more.

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Book report

Seth Godin’s provocative call to just ship it

I recently finished reading The Practice: Shipping Creative Work: the latest book from Seth Godin. In case you haven’t heard of Godin, he’s the marketing guru that famously publishes short thought-provoking blogs daily, and sends those blog posts as emails.

In the book, Godin sets up the idea of creativity as a deliberate practice, one that that takes persistence. Rather than the practice building towards creativity, he asserts that the practice of creativity is the thing, the work, the output.

“Art is the generous act of making things better, by doing something that might not work.”

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"By creativity, I simply mean new ways of thinking about things." - John Cleese
Book report

Thoughts on creativity from John Cleese

I picked up John Cleese’s newest book, Creativity: a short and cheerful guide, on a whim. I’ve started blogging about creativity, so it seems like a handy thing to read a book about the topic from a master comedian, right?

The subtitle “a short and cheerful guide” does not overpromise. At just over 100 pages, and sparsely typeset, I read it in about 20 minutes. Cleese has a certain efficiency of words that cut straight to the heart of the matter, as in the useful definition of creativity in the book’s opening line:

“By creativity, I simply mean new ways of thinking about things.”

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Tess standing with statues of Mike and Sully from Monsters University
Book report

Creative leadership, the Pixar way

I’m a huge fan of Pixar films, and six years ago, while heavily pregnant with my second son, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit their studio.

The campus is incredible; secluded and beautiful, with a good balance of small spaces to encourage focus, and large common areas to foster collaboration and relationship-building. There are sculptures that enshrine popular characters, lengthy galleries of concept artwork and models, and an exclusive merchandise store. Heaven!

So, when I came across the book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace, it jumped out not only because of the striking silhouette of Buzz Lightyear on the cover, but also because of my personal love of Pixar films.

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