John Frazier's Reviews > Imagine: How Creativity Works

Imagine by Jonah Lehrer
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Jul 13, 2012

did not like it

I'm adding a bit of a forward to my review in light of the fact that the author of this book just this week admitted to fabricating quotes attributed to Bob Dylan.

While this, in fact, may demonstrate more imagination than research, this book was not advertised as a novel and that Lehrer has acknowledged taking this liberty makes me question how many more he took in writing this and other works. Certainly, any inclination I may have had to read his other books has completely dissipated and I will support his efforts no more. In fact, I feel like sending "Imagine" back to Amazon and asking for a refund.

What began as a three-star rating is now one. There are enough good fiction writers out there more deserving of your dollars.




Having never really subscribed to the notion that creativity is restricted to a blessed few, I was curious to read "Imagine" after seeing author Lehrer on The Daily Show. While his research served to corroborate several notions I'd held personally--sometimes a vice or two can help kickstart the process and that intense concentration on the task at hand can actually drive you further from its accomplishment--I'm not sure I learned much more that I could apply in my individual creative pursuits.

Some of his data seems to confirm what I've always considered to be common sense: immersing yourself in a crowd of strangers or a busy city sidewalk or getting away from your daily environment can help stimulate one's creativity. But much of this book revolves around the study of creativity in a corporate setting. As interesting as I find the physical layout of Pixar Studios and the working environment of 3M to be, they don't really apply to the freelance writer or the furniture maker or the solo musician who are simply rarely part of a corporate culture, who work out of their garage, a spare bedroom or down in the basement where there is no coffee room or common bathroom.

When you work for yourself, the opportunity to avail yourself of daily criticism and approval from fellow workers is just not there. And although he's presented his research relative to the physical and neurological brain function before, during and after a moment of inspiration in a manner as easily digested as possible, much of it still seems clinical and difficult to apply to everyday tasks associated with writing a novel or framing a photograph or designing a house.

The one myth Lehrer does successfully debunk is that creativity comes easily to anyone. Successful artists, architects, engineers, musicians, designers and innovators all share a commitment and work ethic that can be neither taught, assumed, inherited or purchased. Sometimes there's just no substitute for rolling up your sleeves and working at it--long and hard--until the job's done.
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