Reading about Creativity… Again

Creativity is one of those subjects that’s been so over-explored from an anecdotal and pseudoscientific perspective that it’s become increasingly hard to recommend any content about it. In many ways, the topic is as dead as it is nascent. Millions of artists and philosophers have written about the subject and a dearth of websites have collected their quotes for your convenience (and to sell ads, of course). Yet ask the world’s leading neuroscientist what makes us creative, and you’ll be met with the world’s most accomplished shrug.

However, when I heard that John Cleese is writing a remarkably short guide on the subject, I had to read it. The book is the closest thing I’ve seen to a portable handbook on the subject. It’s not a toolkit or deck of cards like all the cool designers are creating today. Instead, it’s all the things you’ve ever read about creativity in the fewest amounts of words possible, sprinkled in with some of the comedic legend’s anecdotes.

This article is not about the book but rather about a realization I had when I finished reading it. I have become so addicted to novelty thanks to the infinite supply of content on the internet, that I often discount revising something because I say to myself, “I already know this.”

In reading his book, I got the equivalent of someone else’s notes before an exam that I had already prepared for. Concepts clicked immediately and I was reminded of things I believed but had not practiced in a long time.

The question of whether or not I learned something is more tricky. Are relearning and learning the same thing? This question is a slippery slope, but I would argue that relearning in different ways (or words) is the same as learning. Reading about the same things from different perspectives can be incredibly educational. Reading the same thing after you have practiced it for a while is also educational. Sitting in front of your phone mindlessly scrolling through 500 articles about a subject… Not so much.

What was incredibly striking about this book that rarely came through in loosely written fluff posts online was the of his words. The same thing stated from experience and written with great care is somehow infinitely more impactful. That, or I just want to believe this because his name is in big orange letters on the cover.

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Charlie Gedeon

Designing tools for more transparent algorithms and better cognition. Dedicated to making tech further our curiosity and creativity.