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Breakthrough!: Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination Paperback – September 12, 2012
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"A small but potent compendium of field-tested, life-approved insight on optimizing the creative process from some of today's most exciting artists, designers, illustrators, writers, and thinkers. At once practical and philosophical, Breakthrough! promises to help you burst through your own creative plateaus. Whether or not it succeeds, one thing it's guaranteed to do is make you feel less alone in your mental struggles -- and what greater reassurance than that could there be?" -- Brain Pickings
"When color-coding your pens finally loses its appeal and the blank computer screen continues to mock you, borrow a tip from Alex Cornell's new book, Breakthrough! 90 Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination. He surveyed creative leaders, who have plenty of tricks." -- Fast Company
"We can all relate to the frustration that ensues when we run up against creative block. Well, no need to fret. Alex Cornell has compiled '90 Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination' from a line-up of stellar creatives. Christian Helms, Alexandra Lange, Debbie Millman, and others share what works for them to get over the block." -- Communication Arts
About the Author
Alex Cornell is a San Francisco-based designer and musician. He currently works as cofounder and designer at Firespotter Labs and ÜberConference, an Andreessen Horowitz and Google Ventures-funded startup. Recently he passed over three million views on YouTube, where he maintains a periodic online musical presence.
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Top Customer Reviews
But that doesn't mean that it isn't a help. It is a help. When I am in a rut, I find myself just unable to do anything creative. Sometimes, that rut can last a year (like it has been for me) ... and this book is just the ticker to get inspired. It might not be a sure-fire cure for some people, but it is a book full of suggestions written by people who have experienced it and it helps.
One of my favorite advice is from James White, an artist and designer. He writes that a "creative rut is mostly caused by a break in rhythm." He writes of how he would cut his to-do list in half and perhaps take a drawing pad and leave the house, leave the electronic devices behind and just let it go for a few hours. It worked for him.
Most of the advice in here are from illustrators, graphic designers and artists, which is different than what I expected (as I prefer the writers' advice more). However, the underlying theme is that they all are artists and perfectionists in their field, and everyone gets stuck in a rut, even if you're not an artist or writer or musician. A lot of their advice can be used towards the ordinary, day-to-day routine.
This is a helpful tidbit of a book even if the advice seem to have been a bit tired in some respect. It is just a good review every once in awhile to get those creative juices flowing again.
Most of the creative professionals Cornell chooses are workaday creators, with a preponderance of designers and web professionals. These people have to create, in a regular and reliable way, if they want to get paid. These are not celebrities who can trade on their names to leverage years-long sabbaticals when the ideas dry up; this is creativity as a blue-collar enterprise, the way most of us experience it.
Some of the advice is good: reframe the problem. Get away from it for a while so you can see it with fresh eyes. Keep a running portfolio of successes (yours and others') to delve into when you need to shake up the sediment. Get something on the page, screen, or design table, because having raw material you can refine or discard is better than having nothing. When all else fails, get some exercise.
Some of the advice is jokey, and suggests the authors were winking at Cornell. Hitchhike to Mexico? Check into an expensive hotel? I'm pretty sure you're not meant to take these very seriously, and the authors mean to rattle your cage. But surely Cornell knew that too, so I wonder why he put them into a book for which he expects truly blocked creative professionals to pay their scarce money.
Some of the advice is downright bad. Several writers suggest pouring a glass of wine or popping a beer. I cannot recommend highly enough against alcohol or drugs for creative professionals. Drunken minds produce many ideas, but remember or record few. As for drugs, study your history: amphetamines made WB Yeats and Philip K Dick immensely productive, but led both into irretrievable death spirals.
The era of the romantic artist, alone in a garrett with a candle and a notebook, sketch pad, or staff paper is gone. Today's media-saturated society cannot stomach the self-indulgent showmanship that artists once cultivated. As an artist today, you have a responsibility to create with professionalism and purpose. That, more than anything, is the lesson this book teaches, if readers are willing to learn.
If you believe, as I do, that everyone is, or should regard themselves as a creative in some sense, then you may agree that the issue of creative block is universal.
Is there anything new to say about writer's block, or, more broadly, creators' block? Arguably not.... You could go from Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius to Michelangelo to George Eliot, Edith Wharton, Hemingway and Mailer, and likely come up with a small number of common themes and approaches.
So, how to evaluate a book of the nature?
I would suggest taking it on its own terms. It has a series of brief (one-to-two page) essays from all manner of creatives. Many are accompanied with simple graphics. The graphics entertain and inform and punctuate the reader's experience.
Some people may well read the book from cover-to-cover in one sitting. Query: Would that in itself be a kind of procrastination, an element of many creatives' blocks?
Most, I suspect, will dip into it, their eyes caught in one moment by a particular heading or graphic or familiar name. Perhaps that will entertain or give context or even inspire a thought or action.
If any one such inspiration takes hold, it may well add value far beyond the cost of the book. Perhaps that just how inspiration works.
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This is good though.Read more