- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (August 6, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062283251
- ISBN-13: 978-0062283252
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Customer Reviews:
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention Paperback – August 6, 2013
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“Although the benefits of this study to scholars are obvious, this thought-provoking mixture of scholarly and colloquial will enlighten inquisitive general readers, too.” (Library Journal (starred review))
“Accessible and enjoyable reading.” (Washington Times)
From the Back Cover
The classic study of the creative process from the national bestselling author of Flow
creativity is about capturing those moments that make life worth living. Legendary psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi reveals what leads to these moments—be it the excitement of the artist at the easel or the scientist in the lab—so that this knowledge can be used to enrich people's lives. Drawing on nearly one hundred interviews with exceptional people, from biologists and physicists, to politicians and business leaders, to poets and artists, as well as his thirty years of research on the subject, Csikszentmihalyi uses his famous flow theory to explore the creative process. He discusses such ideas as why creative individuals are often seen as selfish and arrogant, and why the "tortured genius" is largely a myth. Most important, he explains why creativity needs to be cultivated and is necessary for the future of our country, if not the world.
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However, this book has a far different style and focus than Flow. It's so different, I am not even sure if it's written by the same person!
This book is essentially meandering musings in sociology and has little to do with what we normally call "creativity." It should have had the more accurate tagline of something like "how different cultures support and absorb new ideas."
The first error the author makes near the beginning is a flawed definition of creativity: ideas that *successfully result in being absorbed in to or changing a field of study*. This definition mixes incompatible concepts, and is therefore impossible to work with; this definition mixes personal mental processes, whether a culture invites creativity, quality of the new idea, luck, etc. Imagine how disastrous a book would be that tried to combine the color red, depression, cylinders, inflation, and sneezing all in to one unified concept.
Perhaps as a result of this bizarre definition, the author's musings meander hopelessly and painfully for hundreds of pages without working toward any new or useful idea. In fact, it really seems like the author goes out of his way to avoid making any conclusions about anything at all. I found myself thinking repeatedly "Will you please say something definite about anything? Will you please make a point?!" Perhaps this is the result of the "soft" science of sociology and/or the destructive definition that the author begins with. (Ironically, he laments why sociology doesn't get the love and support that the more tangible sciences do---this book certainly doesn't help his case.)
Another disagreement I have with his musings (to the extent that he says anything definite), is that he all but drains any credit to any of the individuals that have greatly improved the world we live in--instead, he says they're mostly a product of the culture they live in. I can choose to watch Oprah, baseball, reality shows, drink beer all day, or I can choose to work my ass off studying, thinking and integrating. In every moment of every day, we all choose to think or not to think (and what is important to think about). If I knew that my choices made little difference in how my life's work would be, and that it was mostly a result of the society I happen to be born in to, I would have simply played video games all day and ate lots of pie.
But again, this proclamation is somewhat understandable given his horrible definition up front. If Issac Newton and Jackson Pollock are treated as equals (creatives that changed their fields), then there's all sorts of crazy conclusions that one can spew out--all unrelated to reality.
Unlike Flow, I found nothing useful in this book save the inspiration to read about some of the great works of art and architecture in Florence from the beginning of the Renaissance. You have been warned.
Top international reviews
The only thing is that the paperback version (the one with red and blue and yellow titles) is with a suuuuper fragile paper. The pages are super thin (I like to underline some paragraphs, and the pen always goes to the other side of the page.
Apart from that, Mihaly shows a great respect from creativity and the creative process.
I was unsure as to whether to rate this book as four stars or five on the basis that, although Csikszentmihalyi has approached the matter rigourously and makes few assumptions about the nature of creativity, it would have been valuable, i think, to evaluate the experiences and lives of those who are supposedly not creative. In a similar vein the question of how intelligence should be defined is often studied and disputed, although it seems equally challenging to precisely define its opposite, whatever that is - perhaps 'stupidity'?
However, Csikszentmihalyi has published widely and thoroughly on the matter and as such I would not expect any book, brilliant as it may be, to address every aspect of such a complex notion as 'creativity', with all its far reaching implications for mankind. As such I rate this book five stars as it is a well-written and stimulating foray into this area of psychology. I would reccommend this book to people of all levels of knowledge of the field of psychology, although it is not a 'quick-flick' read by any means. I have already started reading another of his books.
This is what makes it an intriguing read, I think. Its very breadth of scope paradoxically narrowing down what it means to be creative and how we ourselves define it through our own eyes. The differences and the similarities of creative process and the removal of stigma and mystique surrounding our various perceptions gives a fresh perspective on what is essentially a very innate force, present in all of us and only waiting to be tapped into.
Concepts are important and well written. The background and examples are laboured in parts.