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on 30 October 2009
Having just finished reading Creativity by Csikszentmihalyi I have become fascinated by the topic. His book is detailed and highly analytical. This is not a fantastical book of spurious claims nor a self-help book. Having said that, he sets out concisely at the end how one might apply certain principles and approaches to life based on those of successful creative people (such as those he refers to in previous chapters). The most contentious argument put forward is that one is only creative if that creativity is recognised by others of sufficient standing in a field and/or domain. However, in the 'Notes' section at the end he goes on to explain the importance of adopting this position in order to apply the scientific metheod to the study of creativity. Clearly if everyone could self-validate their creativity in terms of quantity and quality the subject would be completely subjective. I appreciate this difficulty but it is nonetheless hard to divorce oneself from the conviction that one has, on occasion, been genuinely creative even if it has not been validated by anyone else.

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.
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on 16 April 2015
Lots of great interviews from all sorts of creatives - a little dry in places and the interviews a bit dated now - and done with people of a couple of generations back - I prefered his other book "Flow" for readability.
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on 28 April 2016
An important if somewhat dense explanation of why we feel happy: absorption in 'the flow' is vital.
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With a name that will always be associated with the concept of 'flow', Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi was a likely choice for a book giving a scientific view of creativity. The way this has been achieved is primarily to identify a large number of people that Csiksgentmihalyi considered highly creative and to ask them if they will be interviewed. There are a number of problems with this approach - would Einstein have said yes, for instance? But there is no doubt that the popular psychologist is able to winkle out a few interesting thoughts on the matter.

We are first introduced the the creative process, through a little bit about the nature of creativity, the creativity personality, how they go about the creative act and the inevitable link in with the concept of 'flow'. Perhaps the most interesting thing in this section is the suggestion that creativity can never be solely about the creative individual. Csiksgentmihalyi tells us that we need three components: an existing domain - an area of knowledge that that the creative individual knows, the act by the individual, which often involves coming at some aspect of the domain in a novel way, and the field, which are the creative person's peers. Csiksgentmihalyi's argument is that without the field's recognition, the creativity isn't 'real'. So, for instance, he suggests that Bach's work only became creative once it was recognised as great after a couple of centuries of being dismissed.

The next part of the book takes us through the creative lives of his interviewees. I find this kind of thing somewhat tedious to read, as it doesn't really add much to the discussion. We then move on to 'domains of creativity', looking for differences and similarities between, for instance, the 'domain of the word' and 'the domain of life'. This, frankly, was also fairly hard work with little concrete scientific analysis provided.

A final section, protestingly (as Csiksgentmihalyi doesn't want this to be a self-improvement book particularly) adds ways to enhance personal creativity. Although what's here isn't bad, it tries hard to ignore most of the work that has been done on enhancing creativity, so skirts around the kind of techniques espoused by the likes of de Bono and Osborn without really acknowledging them, which is a shame and makes it relatively weak in practical terms.

The book is worth reading for the first 150 pages, which make up the section on what creativity is and how it works. These are genuinely fascinating. But the rest of the book lacks the same level of scientific focus or interesting content, so sags by comparison.
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on 28 July 2016
Enjoyable reading - general apprehensible - creativity - flow - happiness.
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on 11 October 2015
I used this book as the basis for a thesis on creative writing and it received a first, that's a win in my book! Mainly, Csikszentmihalyi's presentation of ideas and the way he juxtaposes what defines an incredibly intangible subject in a not too dryly academic way helped guide me in making the same concepts and ideas accessible and meaningful in my chosen field. However, the book itself does not limit itself to any given creative discipline, rather opens up the concept of creativity as a broad church and bolsters this with many testaments from successful people in creative endeavours both ordinary and spectacular.

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.
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on 29 June 2011
This is a fascinating book, based on interviews with 91 highly creative people. Much of it consists of extensive quotations from them, and it gives a great deal of insight into how they live and how they work. The essential element is passionate love of what they do, combined with endless patience. Interestingly and contrary to popular legend, they generally live happily and have a good family life. The suffering genius seems to be a rarity.

I find it hard to go along with the idea that a person can only be called creative when his or her contribution to culture is recognized by the experts in the field. Thus Mendel was not creative in his lifetime but only when his work was discovered by the biological community. Raphael is creative when his work is fashionable and not when he is out of fashion. In fact Cziksentmihaly does not stick closely to his own doctrine, and the last chapter, about how to be creative, says nothing about recognition.

I was amused to see the claim that Naguib Mahfouz had been under house-arrest for several years, which is pure fantasy; on the contrary, the State always treated him as a national treasure. It would be interesting to hear from informed people if some of the other testimonies have been embroidered.
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on 27 September 2010
Very interested in creative thinking and I can't read this book without a pencil in my hand to underline all the ideas that resonate (not something I do as a habit). Thank you Mihalyi
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on 16 April 2014
Cover is really thin, as is the paper, which makes this feel really cheap. The content is good, but the structure seemed a little odd to me - I ended up reading the chapters in a different order, because they made more sense that way. Nothing really groundbreaking I don't think, but to be fair to the author, they do say that themselves. A good overview of the subject - would have liked a bit more neurology in it, but I do understand that the book didn't promise that.
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on 19 December 2004
I am passionate about creativity and Innovation.
I train companies and run public workshops.
In this role, I have read dozens of books regarding creativity (debono, michalko, buzan, etc)
This book was extremely refreshing due to its strong scientific approach. I felt like a NASA expert on the science of Creativity once I read it.
It has largely enhanced my understanding of deeper issues related to the physcology of creativity.
The down side for me is that the author does not consider ana ct to be creative unless it is recognised by others. I deeply disagree, but this was not an impedement to take imense value from the book.
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