06 Sep

How Creativity Works

I was very excited to come across a copy of Jonah Lehrer‘s book, Imagine: How Creativity Works, at the library last week. I haven’t read any of his previous work but I’m familiar with him as a regular contributor to one of my favourite podcasts, Radiolab. The book made for interesting and thoughtful reading material over the long weekend because Lehrer is a very good storyteller and can make even the most complicated of subjects accessible.

It was only after finishing the book that I learned of the controversy surrounding it. Apparently Lehrer fabricated much of what he’s quoted from Bob Dylan in the book, and many of his scientific facts are incorrect. (Read more about it on NY Times website) It’s a situation that boggles my mind because he has in essence fire-bombed his whole career and destroyed all credibility.

Funnily enough, despite the fudging of facts I would still recommend this book. Much of what he explores about creativity reaffirms what I’ve learned over the past few years of working full time as as artist. I do my best work when I get out of the way, conversations with co-workers (or in my case, fellow artists) are essential to inspiration and creativity, and sometimes ideas seem to come out of nowhere but it’s just because they’ve been percolating for awhile, etc.

Creativity is an incredibly arbitrary subject not easily defined, which is why I feel there is still value in reading the book despite the controversy surrounding the author.

2 comments

  1. I was going to read that book until the controversy erupted. There does seem to be a certain irony in fabricating sections of a book on creativity, but it also feeds into a wider issue of creative ownership and the borrowing of images and ideas by artists. With the internet it becomes almost impossible not to be influenced by other images, even subconsciously.

  2. I’m glad I read it before learning about his lying because it would’ve been a very different experience.

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© Rachael Ashe