In this article, find three book reviews and critiques to help you choose a book on creativity!
The authors of the books summarized here are convinced that: everyone is capable of being creative, and creativity is a faculty we all have to escape from daily tensions! Nevertheless, it is good to know a few tips to unleash and develop this creativity. Some books rely on practical exercises day after day to unlock the artistic instinct buried in us, while others encourage us to live our dreams as artists to reach our full potential.
Three books on creativity to read urgently!
The three books that talk about creativity that we summarize in this article are, additionally, all the subject of a longer column on “Books for a change of life”. Each author has a unique and interesting approach to the creative process:
- Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”: the author is an artist herself, which gives a lot of credit to her advice. Indeed, everything in the book has been experienced by the author and her students. It is a book that allows us to quickly take action with effective and affordable techniques.
- “Creative Visualization” by Shakti Gawain: This book on creativity combines a rational approach from the West with intuitive wisdom from the East. The author invites us to get to know each other better in order to live rich creative experiences within our reach. In this way, she helps us take the path to realize our ventures and get closer to our dreams.
- “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert: this book is an invitation to creativity based on pleasure and joy. It teaches us that art is as necessary as it is futile and superfluous. Also, the author urges us to “create” without waiting for the approval of others and with the courage to face their criticisms. This book on creativity is a breath of fresh air to boost our daily lives as artists.
1 – “The Artist’s Way”
By Julia Cameron, 2007, 340 pages.
Julia Cameron is an American artist, born in 1948. A novelist and poet, she has also worked as a journalist and filmmaker. She began to explore the freedom of creation following a personal observation: she had, for a long time, associated drinking with her creativity, when at the age of 30, she decided to dissociate the two and to direct her life without using stimulants. This is how she developed many exercises and started to help artists in need of inspiration. With her first classes, which she named “The Paths to Creativity”, she helped many artists to overcome their obstacles. In the end, a book was born as a result of these exchanges. A book on creativity that is inspired by encounters and offers precious advice to as many people as possible.
Ten important principles according to Julia Cameron
- Life is naturally full of creativity.
- A buried creative force inhabits us all our lives.
- By opening ourselves to our creativity, we free the creator within us.
- We are creations ourselves.
- Creativity is a gift of life (or of the Universe).
- Refusing to be creative is contrary to our very nature.
- By exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to spiritual forces.
- As we make the effort to be creative, we will discover many small changes to undertake.
- We must not be afraid to increase our creativity.
- Our hopes and our creative impulses come from a spiritual source.
Twelve weeks to dust off her inner life
Let us believe in our own religion
Julia Cameron has faith and she wants to pass it on. However, those of us who are atheists should not be afraid: it is not necessarily about believing in God. There are, in fact, many entities which it is possible to set one’s sights on:
- The universe.
- Any other source of inspiration.
Thus, free to choose our own object of belief.
We can act first thing in the morning
The author invites us to write down, in a notebook, all the positive or negative thoughts that go through our head when we wake up. First of all, it will allow us to start the day gently. Then, these little questions will follow us throughout our activities. In fact, it is not a question of writing our first novel, but rather of entering into a form of meditation.
Let’s stimulate the artist in us
To allow ourselves 2 hours a week to do things entirely for ourselves (visit an exhibition, attend a concert, etc.), we will feed our “creative well”. These times for oneself named by the author the “artists’ rendez-vous” brings a thoughtful look to our creativity.
Don’t be a ghost artist…
Let’s be wary of the lifestyles and success stories that have been thought up for us. It is not a question of rebellion, but it is necessary to understand that there are no limits to creativity. Therefore, let’s not let frustration get the better of us and let’s start our creative venture today.
Let’s rid ourselves of the sanctimonious that keep us from moving forward…
All the little remarks accumulated over time prevent the artist within us from expressing ourselves. Thus, noting all these criticisms in what the author calls “the morning pages” (morning writing), gradually allows us to remove them from our minds.
Let’s avoid the troublemakers
By trying to categorize our environment in two parts, we will see more clearly what it brings us. Indeed, we will perceive that there are the benefactors and the polluters. This is why we must privilege contact with people who do us good.
Let’s adopt a positive attitude
By listing all the things we’d like to accomplish, we’ll create opportunities. This is how we will get to new experiences. Despite the apprehension, let’s learn and force ourselves to respond positively.
Let’s visualize our ideal project
The idea is to choose images, stickers or quotes to create the collage of our dream life. To form a collage with these visuals, we indicate to our unconscious that our dream can become reality.
The magic of creation begins to work
At this stage, we can already feel that profound changes are happening within you. All the more so as, gradually, we are adjusting all the pointers that lead us to boost our creativity.
Let’s be thorough, not perfectionist.
Best is the enemy of good. Indeed, it is useless to try to achieve artistic success. Moreover, it would destroy all the efforts and progress we have made.
Conclusion of “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron
Julia Cameron has tested her method herself, and you can feel it! In this book on creativity, she accompanies us like a real coach during these 12 weeks of change. And we are free to choose our own rhythm, to suit our daily life. Among the exercises and tips, the “morning pages” are surely the most subtle idea in this book. Likewise, the “artists’ meetings” are a real breath of fresh air with the feeling of being with oneself.
- The pages we write in the morning: a good way to let off steam, to re-motivate, to refocus and to unblock, in ourselves, what prevents us from moving forward.
- A stimulating read to take control of our dreams and better connect us to our unconscious.
- Re-discovering the small, trivial and essential things that populate our daily lives.
- The idea of not feeling guilty about taking care of yourself.
- The prospect of relying on divine help is a little scary. However, if the author is a believer, it is not necessary to adhere to this in order to follow her advice. Indeed, God can be replaced by other notions (the Universe, nature or our own inspiration).
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2 – “Creative Visualization Workbook”
By Shakti Gawain, 2011, 153 pages.
Shakti Gawain is an American author, specialist in personal development. She grew up in an atheist family, rather closed to religious and philosophical teachings. After a difficult sentimental break-up, she began to search for the meaning of life. In this process, she went to Europe and then to India, a country that would become one of her models of inspiration. Her main strength is her vision that combines the intuitive wisdom of the East with the rational approach of the West. A true pioneer of personal development, her books have sold more than ten million copies in thirty languages. She gave seminars until her death in 2018. Among our three book summaries on creativity, this is the most tangible, as Shakti Gawain offers a programme of exercises that are simple to apply.
Making creative vision second nature
Shakti Gawain has developed a progressive method to embark on the creative vision and tame it. The action plan developed throughout the book is relatively simple. It is to:
- Acquire basic principles.
- Focus on specific objectives.
- Get rid of negative beliefs.
- Act in every area of our existence.
- Be in symbiosis with one’s creativity, positivity and one’s own intuitions.
At the beginning: the basics
Shakti Gawain offers four simple exercises to access our personal creative visualization. It is to project ourselves into a world that we might consider idyllic and feel the well-being we might experience.
- First exercise: using the pink bubble technique
It’s to focus on things we have accomplished that tend towards our ideal. Then, to put this image into a pink bubble and let it fly away. It is a symbolic thought to help us let go and strengthen our confidence in our wishes.
- Second exercise: Dare to make written assertions
The idea of this exercise is to turn our fears or anxieties into positive affirmations. We prefer to hear “I’m going to get organized for…” to “I won’t have time to…”. With a little practice, we will clean up our negative beliefs and replace them with positive affirmations.
- Third exercise: defining your ideal scenario
We need to focus on an objective that we want to achieve in the short or medium term and then describe it in detail. Then we will write a positive sentence about how happy we will feel when this desire come true. We may be surprised to see that we have achieved it without realizing it.
- Fourth exercise: building your treasure map
The idea is to compose a collage with images representing our most cherished dreams. We will also have to choose a symbol of the universe according to our affinities (Buddha, the sun, a God, etc.) and incorporate our photo into the composition.
At the end of this section, exercises are proposed to put these principles into practice.
Let’s set clear goals
It can be a concrete goal or simply the desire to live the moment to the fullest. Depending on the way one works, one learns in this book on creativity, to restrain one’s impulses or on the contrary to stimulate them to take action.
Then we must be careful to:
- Test oneself with realistic challenges for short-term goals and idealistic challenges for long-term goals.
- Focus on the end result and not on the road ahead.
- Try to live these experiences as a game by letting your imagination and creativity run wild.
- Once this step has been completed, rephrase these objectives in an affirmative way, and write down the list of our goals at one month, six months, one year, two, etc. right up to life goals.
It’s time to clean up!
Here Shakti Gawain teaches us to transform our negative beliefs into positive ones. This cleansing takes place on the emotional, mental, spiritual and physical level.
- Elementary cleaning: this is to transform our doubts into clarifying statements to finally arrive at formulating them in a positive way.
- Forgiveness as a solution: to forgive others, to imagine a conversation with the people who have hurt us, we free ourselves of a burden.
- No more guilt: we will bend over backwards to get rid of our regrets when we have hurt someone.
The author then presents us with a list of negative beliefs that are very frequently felt. These range from the feeling of not being able to decide the direction of our lives to the fear of dissatisfaction. She then encourages us to accept that we not only have the right to be happy, but that we deserve it. We finally learn that we have the right to fail. On the other hand, and this is essential, we must remain ourselves and let ourselves be guided by our spiritual conscience.
A series of exercises are added to put into practice all these fundamentals of creative visualization.
Our life is a set of specific areas
We are the sum of different domains:
- The relationship we have with ourselves.
- Our relationship with each other.
- The way we manage our work and our finances.
- Our relationship with our home and property.
- The care we take for our health and appearance.
- Our travels and our hobbies.
- The world we live in.
Shakti Gawain then suggests that we take the basic tips and apply them to each area.
Our positive energy is our guide
Shakti Gawain invites us to appreciate and be in harmony with ourselves. Here are the steps to follow in this process:
- Take the time to question ourselves about what we like about ourselves and what we have achieved.
- Identify what we value in our lives and what we could improve for our well-being.
- Helping others and to support them in their projects.
- Write down our ideas, even the craziest ones, and record our dreams positively.
- Train ourselves to acquire an intuitive organization that will accompany us every day, without even thinking about it.
Conclusion of “Creative Visualization Workbook” by Shakti Gawain
Those who are going through a period of stagnant life or lack of dynamism will find, in this book on creativity, how to reconnect with action. The exercises are simple but awfully effective. This reading leads us to discover, within ourselves, unsuspected resources and suggests that we take the road to our dreams. By carrying out our projects from the most modest to the most ambitious, our daily life will be turned upside down to become a rich experience. In the end, this book is an invitation to take one’s destiny in hand and to take great strides forward without waiting for others to be the source of our success. And it is, according to Shakti Gawain, without doubt the most rewarding form of freedom that is given to everyone, to go after their dreams.
- Exercises that are easy to put into practice.
- The workbook can be completed by reading the theory book, to deepen certain concepts. However, it can also be self-sufficient.
- Space is provided for the reader to comment on the exercises.
- At first glance, the exercises seem too simple to be credible, whereas in reality they are very effective.
- The section on beliefs is a bit sloppy, so this book on creativity can be complemented with other reading to make a lasting change.
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3 – “Big Magic”
By Elizabeth Gilbert, 2017, 288 pages.
Elizabeth Gilbert is an American essayist, biographer and novelist. When she was 32 years old, she decided to embark on a journey around the world. From this experience, she wrote a book, “Eat, Pray, Love”, which sold five million copies worldwide. “As if by magic” is her latest book. In this book about creativity, everything is brought together to take us into a joyful universe. The author invites us to delve inside to discover our hidden treasures. She then unveils the six forces necessary to liberate our creativity.
Part 1 – Let’s Have Courage
- Set out to conquer your buried treasures
In her book “Big Magic”, Elizabeth Gilbert explains that we have riches within us to exploit. To transform a ordinary life into an enchanted destiny, we must have courage, the courage to lead a creative existence.
- Curiosity must outweigh fear…
This creative existence, as Elizabeth Gilbert understands it, is a life that is fully engaged by experiencing the treasures we have within us. It is a way of life that is naturally opposed to a life of mere consumers.
- Fear hinders creativity
Fear is really an obstacle to aspiring to a creative existence. While courage helps us to overcome our fears, fearlessness is ignorance of danger.
It is important to tame this fear and not want to destroy it at all costs. Indeed, without this fear, creativity cannot flourish, as these two notions go hand in hand.
Part 2 – Let’s Be Enchanted
Magical thinking is the key to creativity
In “Big Magic”, the author admits to having an approach that is far removed from scientific explanations. Elizabeth Gilbert actually has a real attraction for things invisible, unreal and mystical. For her, the notion of creativity is carried by ideas as much as by living organisms.
Let’s just let ourselves be overwhelmed by ideas
According to the author, we are surrounded by a multitude of ideas floating around us in search of an available human. Two possibilities are then open to us. Either we are available and we welcome them to develop. Or, on the contrary, we are totally closed or busy with something else: from then on, the ideas leave towards other horizons.
If we are open enough to enter into a relationship with an idea, then we will be able to choose between two options:
- With a negative response from us, it will continue on its way.
- However, if we welcome it in a positive way, it is a change that we will have to accept.
The myth of the suffering artist is obsolete…
In this book on creativity, Elizabeth Gilbert breaks the myth of the artist who can only create through suffering. This theory, which is still deeply rooted in Western mentalities, is, according to her, inadmissible. On the contrary, it is a question of abandoning oneself with cheerfulness and modesty in the whirlwind of creativity.
Ideas are contagious
Elizabeth Gilbert admits to having lived through a strange ordeal that she describes as the most magical experience of her life.
One day she had an idea for a luminous novel, which she immediately put into action, until a personal event interrupted her project. When she wanted to start writing again, the idea had abandoned her, most likely out of apathy. When this happens, the author advises to be alert and stay on the lookout for other ideas that are looking for directors. Which she did. But, a few years later, one of her friends, Ann Patchett, introduced her to the subject of the novel she was writing. She is stunned to find that the story is almost identical to the one she had started writing. For them, there is no doubt, the idea transferred from one to the other when they first met.
Inspiration must be shaped to be fulfilled
We have all regretted one day that someone took one of our ideas and used it to accomplish enviable things. We must remove any feelings of jealousy or injustice from our minds. That is the nature of ideas: they move until they find a taker who is ready to put them into effect.
Work, embodiment and flexibility
Elizabeth Gilbert admits to working hard even when she is not occupied by ideas. Indeed, according to her, you have to be predisposed to welcome ideas, as if you were in the ideal place. Likewise, inspiration has the ability to come and go. We must accept this state of affairs and try to collaborate with it according to its fluctuations.
Part 3 – The legitimacy of creativity
It is permitted to create
In “Big Magic”, the author tells how she did not grow up in a creative family. This did not prevent her writing to blossom. And that’s because she was lucky enough to be encouraged to do things, quite simply. It’s also important to understand that we can’t wait for others’ consent to make our desires come true. In fact, creativity is the human trait that we must not restrain.
Boldness as a creative tool
For Elizabeth Gilbert, this means to convince ourselves that we have every right to be creative and to chase away ideas that might take us off that path.
There is no need to invent
To begin with, we have to accept that a lot of things have already been done. This is no reason not to be creative, because they have not been done by ourselves. On the other hand, if we force originality, we run the risk of falling into sentimentality. The most important thing, in the end, is to make things that we can relate to.
Art studies, a dead-end
In “Big Magic”, the author advises against taking an art course, because she believes that the profession of artist is so particular and personal that it cannot be learned. By investing a lot of money, she believes that students may feel very guilty if there is no success. Also, because there is no job security in this field, it will be difficult to make the most of those long years of study.
Taking an interest, cultivating and accumulating knowledge
In this book on creativity, Elizabeth Gilbert encourages us to explore the world and to store knowledge. Thus, the more we move forward in life, the greater our baggage will be. Finally, to cast aside those ideas that slow us down in our creativity and by drawing inspiration from our mentors, means we will succeed.
Let’s be happy to be creative
The author does not appreciate artists who complain about the drudgery of their work. Indeed, for Elizabeth Gilbert, it amounts to chasing away ideas and inspiration. On the contrary, it is more interesting and productive to take into account all the facets of creation and to be proud and happy to accomplish it in its entirety.
It doesn’t matter how we’re labeled or how other people see us…
Whatever we create, we cannot hold ourselves responsible for what it will trigger in others. Through this book on creativity, Elizabeth Gilbert teaches us to detach ourselves from the judgment of others. Likewise, to continue to do what we like and not take the opinions of others into account, we will approach creation in a healthy way.
Art isn’t serious
We must realize that art is not a serious enterprise. Rather, it should be a delicious experience that complements the essential. This is what makes it beautiful.
What’s at stake is freedom
Except in the case of a totalitarian regime in which art takes on the character of rebellion or risk-taking, art must be considered without any notion of urgency. No one needs to torture themselves in order to create. Why not simply try to make art for pleasure?
Art is contradiction: as useless as it is necessary
To fulfil its role, art must be both necessary and totally futile. It is thanks to this paradox that art becomes healthy and beneficial.
Part 4 – To last the journey
The promise of success
In this book on creativity, the author invites us to make a promise: to succeed! This is how she decided at a very young age to become a writer and to not give nothing up to achieve it. Elizabeth Gilbert also insists on the fact that we can become a pro in our field in just 10 years. So, there is no special moment in a person’s life, in order to start.
The Dark Side of Creativity
Few creators are fortunate enough to succeed often in what they undertake. More often than not, the achievement of something great is an accident among many failures. That’s why we need to train ourselves to be able to deal with bad experiences without getting discouraged.
Don’t bet everything on creation
Elizabeth Gilbert admits that she continued to practice her craft before trying to make a living from her art. Indeed, she believes that the stress to earn a living can spoil inspiration. On the other hand, to create without worrying about the profitable aspect is an ideal way to get started.
A little, a lot, with passion
In order to achieve fulfilment in art, we must first and foremost love it passionately. This is how we will find time to devote to it, a bit like in an extra-marital relationship!
There is no such thing as perfection
To seek perfection means to take the risk of never starting, as well as never finishing a creative work.
To get out of our rut
We’re all potential creators. Also, this state of mind will allow us to abandon, for a moment, what we really are from a physical, mental or societal point of view.
To do our best, but not necessarily better.
The quest for perfection can prove to be a trap, as it prevents us to move forward and succeed in the creative process.
To start over is to always work at it
Luck is brought into play and one should not hesitate to persist until one succeeds. There are times in life when efforts will be rewarded through a combination of favorable circumstances.
Part 5 – To act with conviction
To reconnect with our innate abilities
We are inseparable from the earth and we must remember that we are in constant interaction with it to become creative partners.
The cursed artist is old-fashioned
“Big Magic” is a very positive book about creativity. Elizabeth Gilbert explains to us that we have to give up the belief that our pathologies are at the root of our creative capacity. Therefore, it is much more interesting to apply oneself to create with joy, to think if it as a game.
Cunning as a course of action
The fox is the opposite of a martyr. While the latter is condemned to get bogged down in a rigid and solemn world, the fox is a mine of creativity. Indeed, its subversive side and its lightness make it an inspired creator.
Be curious rather than passionate
Healthy curiosity is far from being a bad flaw, as it is what will allow us to move forward slowly but surely. Conversely, passion is a source of strong emotions that are too random to constitute a good basis for work.
Don’t cultivate your ego too much
Buddhists use a term for an unbalanced ego: the hungry ghost. To counter it, there is nothing better than to nourish our soul and move towards a sense of wonder, not dissatisfaction.
To keep at it after failure is a waste of time
When we fail, it is best to move on to something else to drive away the frustration and disappointment. Elizabeth Gilbert explains that Einstein played the violin when he couldn’t finish a piece of work. It was then that the solution became clear to him, thanks to this practice called “combined playing”. In the end, it is worth remembering that it is action that inspires the most enjoyable things.
No need to justify yourself
On the other hand, it is necessary to reveal oneself by showing one’s work. That way, we can see how much we love what we do. To accept the success or failure of our work means we will be sure that we have had a positive creative process.
Conclusion of “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert
If we were to highlight 3 main ideas to define the creativity process according to Elizabeth Gilbert, it would be:
- To measure the joy that the experience brings us.
- Live the creative search fully and with pleasure.
- To marvel at the magic that comes out of our work.
“Big Magic” has many anecdotes that make the book easy and enjoyable to read. Elizabeth Gilbert helps us reflect on the behavior we need to adopt to free ourselves and foster our creativity. In the end, “Big Magic” is an extremely inspiring book about creativity.
- A tone with depth and lightness for a realistic result.
- The magic aspect of creativity is approached in an original and obvious way.
- The reader is transported from anecdotes to funny and expressive stories.
- It is a celebration of pleasure, positivity and the joy of creativity.
- The book is perhaps based too much on the author’s personal experience.
- The plot of the book is a bit general and abstract.
My rating :
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