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On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself Through Mindful Creativity
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On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself Through Mindful Creativity

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  302 ratings  ·  52 reviews
“All it takes to become an artist is to start doing art.”
–from On Becoming an Artist

On Becoming an Artist is loaded with good news. Backed by her landmark scientific work on mindfulness and artistic nature, bestselling author and Harvard psychologist Ellen J. Langer shows us that creativity is not a rare gift that only some special few are born with, but rather an integral
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 28th 2006 by Ballantine Books (first published 2005)
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Oct 31, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I don't have a self-help bookshelf designated but if I did, this book would sit on that shelf. It's about the roadblocks that stand in the way of our natural creativity and how we might remove them. Langer, a Harvard academic and researcher, is known as the mother of mindfulness, having researched and written about the subject from a Western, scientific perspective long before the eastern definition became popular in this country. She asserts that "mindfulness does not involve achieving some alt ...more
Chris Pelzer
Aug 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Although personally I am in agreement with this book's arguments, and feel that the author is mindfully creative both in her painting and in her profession as a psychologist, I think the message could have been presented in a stronger manner. My first suggestion would be for it to be presented as an article, which I think would have been very powerful. The second would have been to perhaps present it more as a workbook with examples of increasing your mindful creativity. I kind of feel like the ...more
Oct 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I was hooked from the beginning. I am an artist and a student of social psychology so it wasn't much of a stretch. The ideas presented are not all new but were backed up with Langers form of experiment which sets out to illuminate the edges rather than re affirm the common results. I have no doubt this is not for everyone but if you are interested in examining behavior you will find a lot of clear examinations and revealing results in this book.

I went on to find the British tv special which re
Sojharo Mangi
I found the book really interesting as I started reading it. I am a poet and story-writer myself so I could relate to many things. There were many good things like where we should care about rules and where we should come up with our own decisions. In short, the author helps you realising how we can openly participate in situations and not blindly follow rules decided by someone else in some other situation. However, after 1o0 pages, I was like dragging myself to complete the book. I don't know ...more
Jan 14, 2010 rated it liked it
"How do we get from beginning some new activity to a personal renaissance? Learning what things stand in the way of our comfortably engaging in some leisure activity, and how to break down these roadblocks as we experience them provides the practice we need to deal with our more familiar stresses and fears. Once examined through this new lens, many of our 'problems' fall by the roadside. We can, it turns out, pursue art for art’s sake and art for life’s sake, and it matters little what
Oct 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Langer, who is a psychologist and researcher at Harvard University, is known primarily for her work on mindfulness. Here, she outlines the obstacles to creating art mindfully--unnecessary obstacles of our own making that stop us from fully enjoying the creative process or that keep us from making art altogether. Her arguments resonated strongly for me, even though no one issue was particularly novel or earthshaking. I realize that I may simply have been at the right place at the right time, so I ...more
Jocelyn Paige
Insightful, practical, uplifting. As a writer who dabbles in art, I felt like this book really helped me to understand and engage more mindfully in the practice of creativity on a level that I had not yet reached or appreciated. I found mountains of gems in here, both from the author and from quotes the author brings in to highlight certain ideas.
Deborah Biancotti
Not so much a how-to or hands-on book as a book of reminders & considerations for the obstacles to liberated play/art. Mentions the idea of a 'personal renaissance', but I'm left wondering what that is & how to get there. ;) A book for beginners with an academic bent. ...more
Teri Temme
Sep 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Loved the ideas and Ellen's description of her painting adventures. I learned some important lessons. Confirmed a few beliefs. And remembered: "Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely". ~Auguste Rodin

Jul 14, 2011 rated it liked it
I don't think it cut deep enough for me, but I did find parts of it helpful and interesting. It reads more as a memoir in some regards. This book best for a beginner mindset.
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Maria Bell
Nov 05, 2019 rated it liked it
I did struggle with this book, l found the pace very slow, and hence read it in the same way. Lot's of information, it did seem to be talking about one thing and then jump onto something else. L know when thinking in a creative way this is what happens, but at times l found it frustrating. The bottom line for me with this book, is be yourself, look for inspiration from the world around you nature, other arts, music etc. but be yourself, let your art evolve, the way we evolve as a person. When yo ...more
Victoria Manning
She highly encourages being present with what is in the moment. Becoming aware of our preconceptions often limits our creativity... Bringing what “should” be to an art experience creates judgment and perhaps withdrawal from what could be a learning experience from our “mistakes”... Self-evaluation often arrises when we feel bad and just experiencing ourselves is more likely to occurr when we are feeling good. She openly shares her own personal journey to self acceptance and embracing her art as ...more
Oct 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Actually 3 1/2 stars is more appropriate.
Not entirely certain who the book is written for and the reasons for writing the book.
It is a a mixed bag of personal discovery and the development of her painting blended with insightful psychological studies that explore creativity and elements that preclude a person from pursuing their muses.
It is certainly not a waste of one's time and it provides a foundation for a better understanding of how to move forward in a creative endeavor if one is so inclin
Dec 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
As a professor, Langer conducted study after study showing how mindfulness affects people's perceptions making them more open, creative, and less bound by rules and expectations. I didn't feel it necessary to read every study. The parallel thrust of the book is that people are afraid to make art for many reasons that this mindfulness can erase; you too CAN make art. It's a good message, and since I get the point about mindfulness, one to start putting to practice.
Dec 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction, art
This is pop psychology for the unlearned consumer. Langer actually offers some advice for aspiring adult artists, but her observations are pretty obvious. Basically she says just do it. This volume amounts to hand holding for the insecure. This fits in with Langer’s profession of social psychology, a discipline that pretends to be science but through its contrived and manipulative “experiments” never achieves more than superficial insight.

Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books on creativity you'll ever read. This book expertly walks the reader through mindfulness, creativity, and artistic creation while weaving in relevant stories from the author's own life. I finished this book feeling inspired and with a new willingness to try other art forms that I hadn't been brave enough to try. I can't wait to read more of her work.
Jul 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
I keep thinking this book could be helpful and provide insight, like I’m just on the other side of grasping what they are. It ended up being more academic and less artistic than I expected. To be fair I read it in bits and pieces, here and there and it’s not the kind of book to benefit by that type of reading. I may change my evaluation after I (as planned) read it again.
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book on mindfulness by an extraordinarily aware Harvard psychologist -- not a meditation practitioner. This book is useful to artists and to non-practicing artists alike. I underlined something on almost every page.
Laurie sharp
Feb 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Ok not particularly enlightening.
Jul 31, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book is nothing more than a rehash of her previous work, and self congratulatory description of herself as an artist. As an artist I found this book incredibly annoying.
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
More philosophy on living creatively than about being an artist.
Karen Calhoun
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art-aesthetics
I enjoyed this very much- cues for mindfully considering one's creative endeavors.
Dec 04, 2019 rated it did not like it
Not a fan, neither of the writing style nor the content.
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone especially young women
On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself Through Mindful Creativity (Hardcover)
by Ellen J. Langer

from the library
Oct 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: art, self-help
How do you review a book about mindfulness when one of the premises is that evaluations can be a form of mindlessness. Well, the best way I can do this is to understand the author's purpose of her book, see if she has achieved this and finally decide if I agree with her conclusion.
Dr. Langer, a psychologist, has written on mindfulness before. In this book, I understand her purpose to be to help others develop their artistic side through mindfulness and the removal of " roadblocks" which hinder
I picked up this book with one of Langer's others, because I caught a reference about her in Chronicle of Higher Educ and liked the idea. Since one of my goals is to teach young people how to become creative researchers (which in many ways is not unlike art), this seemed like it would be great.

It's not. Langer defines "artist" as doing your craft mindfully and not paying attention to other people's evaluation, and then spends the book talking about how she picked up painting and how great she is
Apr 03, 2015 rated it did not like it
I had to read this book for Managerial Psychology in my MBA program, and it just did not work for me. I have no artistic leanings whatsoever so the constant use of painting as an illustration got really old for me personally. I generally found the subject matter to be fairly esoteric and academic. I realize the author - a psychology professor at Harvard - has implemented or tried to implement the practices she writes about in this book, but it felt very disconnected from my reality (and most peo ...more
Kelly Lynn Thomas
This is a fantastic look at creativity, and one I would recommend everyone to read, even those who think they aren't creative. Ellen Langer shows us why everyone is creative, and systematically goes through the things that most often stop us from creating. Learning to get over these obstacles (like the evaluations of others) is a process for sure, but Langer gives us the mental tools we need to work on it.
Marina Minns
Jul 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I really wish I'd stumbled on this book years ago, as it would have saved me so much self doubt and fear of trying things. With it's mixture of personal anecdotes about her own path to becoming a painter and her expertise as a researcher in psychology, this really is a powerful book. The idea of what mindfulness is, and how we can inhibit our own sense of curiosity about the world because of mindlessness is powerful stuff.
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Ellen Langer, Yale PhD, Harvard Professor of Psychology, artist. Among other honors, she is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and three Distinguished Scientist Awards, the World Congress Award, the NYU Alumni Achievement Award, and the Staats award for Unifying Psychology, and has authored eleven books and over 200 research articles on the illusion of control, perceived control, successful

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