A half scientific/half anecdotal look at how the creative process works.
From the title, you can tell that Mr. Lehrer has ambition. Creativity can mean any number of things and he explores an impressive array of factors that may or may not contribute to the creative process. Conventional things, like brainstorming and the use of drugs, to unconventional approaches, like the color of a wall or centralized bathrooms—Mr. Lehrer explores each in a light, sometimes, humorous manner and peppers in the science behind a good number of the phenomena. Throughout the book, he shares relevant anecdotes about persons, artists or entrepreneurs who had an “ah-ha” moment about a problem they were working on, or the creative process itself.
As someone who works in a creative field, a lot of the insights were things I already had discovered on my own. For example: Coffee makes me more creative. But learning why coffee, or rather caffeine, has that effect and why, is pretty fascinating. I just wish the scientific examples were applied more consistently throughout. Also, I’m not a Bob Dylan fan, so when the author cites Dylan’s creation of the song, “Like a Rolling Stone”, as an example of a song writing breakthrough, I just kind of shrug.
Plus, there is a startling amount of contradiction throughout. So much so that the book feels a bit unfocused at times. Part of the problem is that Mr. Lehrer doesn’t seem to want to focus on any one type of “creativity”. Songwriting stands next to surfing next to scientific research; these are vastly different skill sets requiring vastly different resources. He does try to break the process down into individual vs. collective pursuits, but the results are oftentimes unclear.
For a book that claims to know “how creativity works”, the answer provided seems to be “it does … sort of”.
Read it. Maybe buy it. Pass it along. As an exhaustive treatise on creativity, it’s uneven. But as a means of sparking creativity when you’re in a rut, it works extremely well. There were many times when the book sparked an exciting moment of clarity as well as inspiration. As anyone interested in expanding their perception of creativity, it’s certainly worth a quick read-through.