June 21, 2021

On Creativity: 3 Books To Get You Going

​I have been thinking a lot about being creative lately. Actually, it’s not been lately, it’s been there for some time, tapping at my shoulder and asking me to listen. I’ve just been ignoring it. And I realise now that creativity is really about listening to that voice. It’s trying to tell you something. Parents get a big pass at ignoring their creative voice – we are so skilled at learning to ignore small, annoying voices asking for things that it’s now much harder to listen to the little voice telling you something important and not asking for another snack fifteen minutes before dinner.

What strikes me about nearly all creative endeavours, and indeed most things in life, is that you need to have your psychological house in some sort of order. I don’t mean that you never have negative thoughts or feelings – that is, of course, impossible, but you have a house where your thoughts and feelings aren’t barring the door. That is, in fact, why I started writing these newsletters in the first place, to help bring those psychological skills to a wider audience. And it’s no different with creativity – you need to have a way to deal with the tricky stuff your mind will do when you step out of your comfort zone.

But back to actual creativity – and in the coming weeks I will write more about managing your mind to unlock your creative potential – as I wanted to share 3 books on creativity which you might like. Whenever I get interested in something I find books on it. And then I buy many of them in one go and become obsessed. I hear, from those who live with me, that this can be an annoying trait.

So here are my three recommendations:

1. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Everyone has heard of this but me. I am totally late to every party and can never spot a trend (in 1996 I said the internet and mobile phones wouldn’t catch on). She has two key tools. One is called the morning pages where you write three pages, by hand, of your stream of consciousness when you get up. It’s different from journaling in that it really is supposed to be a stream of consciousness as soon as you wake up. It is enlightening and the idea is that you brain dump to allow for more creativity in the day. I am in the process, let’s see if it works.

Her second tool is the artist date. This is where you go off, ON YOUR OWN, for a couple of hours a week and doing something playful and fun. I recently saw the author interviewed and she said that one of her artist dates was to go to a local pet store and cuddle a rabbit. She had me at rabbit. Her thinking behind this is that all experiences provide us with images (and I would say images, from a psychological perspective, are not just visual but all the senses) and provide us with a well to draw on for our creative endeavours.

2.     Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
You’ve probably heard of Elizabeth Gilbert as the author of Eat, Pray, Love which became a bestseller. It predictably passed me by whilst I was busy thinking about why the world wide web would never work. She’s written a lovely book on creativity – she’s an all-round lovely woman. It’s an easy and inspiring read. I underlined lots of things. That’s a good sign.

3.     Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Ok, this is a quite dense, as is his surname, but I find it an interesting look at creativity from a psychological perspective, although it does feel dated now. Csikszentmihalyi coined the idea of flow  - where you are so absorbed in doing something that you don’t notice time passing. It’s the perfect task, not too hard, not too easy but juuuust right. Do you remember this feeling from childhood? I do. I used to get it making Airfix model spitfires (stop judging me). And wasn’t that feeling wonderful? Somehow adult life does a good job at kicking flow into touch, which is too bad, as I suspect it’s the secret to happiness and contentment.

So, there’s some creativity reading suggestions. What would you add to the list?