I LOVED THIS BOOK. This is such a necessary book. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “creative” person, it might unleash some long dormant aspirations you’ve long forgotten about, or have you re-evaluate your approach to all sorts of situations in your life. Just the anecdotal accounts about famous artists such as Dalí, Alexander McQueen, Christian Marclay, Hans Christian Anderson, are enough if you’re not interested in ameliorating your creative flare. This book reminded me a little bit of the satisfaction I got from reading the book You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney. There’s a lot in this book to identify with. I’m a singer-songwriter on the harp and this book definitely got me thinking a lot more about my “process” and the ways I limit myself in both perspective and undermining my own capacities and abilities. It’s also given me insight about how to just let go of “goals” and instead just follow my passions and see where they lead me instead of confining myself to a certain target or destination in mind.
Here professor Rod Judkins from St Martin’s College of Art is a sort of curator of techniques to unleash creativity in any situation. This book definitely diminishes the myth that only creative people are geniuses and vice versa. It really emphasizes how much failure comes into play in the creative process and how to adjust ones attitude towards failure to fully embrace the inertia of the process, whether the result is success of failure. Be positive about the negative reactions to your art or your work in life—some sort of reaction is better than no reaction at all. People are generally resistant to new ideas and concepts and sometimes a negative reaction can be really telling (in that it might eventually be overwhelmingly accepted like Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 1).
The Art of Creative Thinking is all about the productivity found in breaking rules and getting out of your comfort zone. This may sound like really conventional wisdom but it examines the minds of creative thinkers and how to apply some of their mantras to your own thinking. In fact, the book recommends coming up with your own mantra, one that can connect you with your past, present and future self—something that I’m definitely working on for myself. I think it’s a really interesting concept to create a linear sense of purpose and motivation throughout your life that really rings true with who you are and what fulfills you (as cheesy as it sounds!).
The book also explores at length the need to doubt everything around you. This might seem intuitive but you wouldn’t believe how many things we accept because it’s the status quo. Reject the structures and forms you’ve been working with and start a new, try working in a way or in a setting you never have before and you might reap amazing results! There might have been something you overlooked if you keep going at it in the same way. Again, Judkins presents all sorts of fascinating and convincing anecdotal evidence about famous and successful artists that had me really excited about rejecting the sort of structures I had come to accept in my life and my work.
There were parts of the book where I felt a little incredulous. I feel like Judkins underplays or elides over the dangers of the creative life (many of the artists he quotes suffered from addiction). I think, however, Judkins stays away from those caveats as it would be more a judgment on untreated mental illness’ (and the creativity that comes out of mental illness) than laying the blame on a creative life and creative sensibilities.
Probably the most valuable piece of advice for me was to not be afraid to copy and emulate other’s works. Obviously plagiarism is a different issue. All great artists have copied and re-worked others pieces. Through understanding their predecessors’ technique or approach, perhaps your own unique perspective will emerge.
The book also offers tons of fantastic quotes at the end of each chapter that definitely were worth scribbling down in a notebook for future reference. Reject logic, and indulge yourself and your curiosity friends!