Creativity

Overview

This book is about what makes life worth living. The creative excitement of the artist at her easel or the scientist in the lab comes as close to the ideal fulfillment as we all hope to, and so rarely do. Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi interviewed more than ninety of possibly the most interesting people in the world - people like actor Ed Asner, authors Robertson Davies and Nadine Gordimer, scientists Jonas Salk and Linus Pauling, and Senator Eugene McCarthy - who have changed the way people in their fields ...
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Overview

This book is about what makes life worth living. The creative excitement of the artist at her easel or the scientist in the lab comes as close to the ideal fulfillment as we all hope to, and so rarely do. Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi interviewed more than ninety of possibly the most interesting people in the world - people like actor Ed Asner, authors Robertson Davies and Nadine Gordimer, scientists Jonas Salk and Linus Pauling, and Senator Eugene McCarthy - who have changed the way people in their fields think and work to find out how creativity has been a force in their lives. In his bestselling book Flow, Professor Csikszentmihalyi explored states of "optimal experience" - those times when people report feelings of concentration and deep enjoyment - and showed that what makes experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called "flow." Here Professor Csikszentmihalyi builds on his flow theory, profiling individuals who have found ways to make flow a permanent feature of their lives and at the same time have contributed to society and culture. This book is not so much about the everyday "creativity" that we all experience but the kind of creativity of artists, scientists, and others that can transform our culture and the way we look at the world. By studying the creative lives of exceptional people, Professor Csikszentmihalyi shows us how we can all enhance our everyday lives. His goal is to help us better understand a way of being that is more satisfying and more fulfilling.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Based on interviews with 91 internationally recognized creative people-among them Nobel physicist John Bardeen, arts administrator-performer Kitty Carlisle Hart, writer Denise Levertov, jazz musician Oscar Peterson, electronics executive Robert Galvin-this book offers a highly readable anatomy of creativity. As Csikzentmihalyi (Flow) argues, creativity requires not only unusual individuals, but a culture and field of experts that can foster and validate such work. Most creative people, the author suggests, have dialectic personalities: smart yet nave, both extroverted and introverted, etc. Expanding on his previous book, Csikszentmihalyi suggests that complex and challenging work exemplifies fully engaged "flow." Synthesizing study results, he reports that none of the interviewees was popular during adolescence; while they were not necessarily more brilliant than their college peers, they displayed more "concentrated attention." Later, they kept a consistent focus on future work. The author reminds us that while individuals can make their own opportunities, a supportive society offering resources and rewards can foster creativity. His advice may sound like homilies-"Try to be surprised by something every day"-but is often worthy. (June)
Library Journal
Bringing together 30 years of research, Csikszentmihalyi (psychology, Univ. of Chicago) describes this book as "an effort to make more understandable the mysterious process by which men and women come up with new ideas and new things." Utilizing the interviews garnered from 91 respondents (ranging from philosopher Mortimer Adler to biologist Edward O. Wilson to politician Eugene McCarthy), the author of the best-selling Flow (LJ 3/15/90) demonstrates the processes that these acknowledged creative thinkers and doers go through and the characteristics that make them stand out. He deals with what makes them and others like them "creative"which he defines as "a process by which a symbolic domain in the culture is changed"and how the conduct of their professional and personal lives illustrates these traits. Csikszentmihalyi also deals with creativity and aging and ways to enhance one's own personal creativity. Although the benefits of this study to scholars are obvious, this thought-provoking mixture of the scholarly and colloquial will enlighten inquisitive general readers, too. A welcome addition to both academic and public libraries.David M. Turkalo, Suffolk Univ. Law Sch. Lib., Boston
Kirkus Reviews
A mostly fascinating look at what makes creative people who they are, gleaned largely from interviews with 91 individuals from a wide variety of fields.

Despite the subtitle, social psychologist Csikszentmihalyi, who invented the idea of "flow" and authored a book with that title, writes relatively little about the enjoyable, ego- and time- transcending absorption in a task that is conducive to creativity and high achievement. Rather, he focuses on the interplay between culture, the creative person, and the "domain" (sociologese for "field"), including the receptivity of experts to new ideas and inventions. He quotes extensively—too much so—from the subjects he and his research team interviewed, but there are some gems among these passages, such as writer Madeleine L'Engle's observation that to produce good literature, "your intuition and your intellect should be working together . . . making love." Csikszentmihalyi's weakest section consists of detailing ten personality polarities that supposedly distinguish creative individuals, but that are also applicable to "balanced" or "fulfilled" individuals. His best sections consist of longer profiles of individuals as varied as poet Anthony Hecht, ecologist Barry Commoner, and astronomer Vera Rubin. Also valuable is a concluding prescriptive section with some helpful advice to the average person on how to make his or her thinking and way of living more creative, particularly a passage on how to rethink and use a disappointing experiences, such as being passed over for a promotion. Unfortunately, redundancies make the work too long by at least a third, and some meaningless or fatuous generalizations also mar the presentation (e.g., "Recent studies suggest that the amount of dalliance, marital infidelity and sexual experimentation [among creative people studied] is much less than earlier estimates had suggested").

Still, the rich anecdotal material Csikszentmihalyi has mined and analyzed make this an important study of a vital topic.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641014062
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/1/1996
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 464

Meet the Author


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is professor and former chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago.

His previous books include Flow and The Evolving Self. Flow was shown on the 1993 NBC Super Bowl broadcast as the book that inspired Jimmy Johnson, then coach of the Dallas Cowboys. It was also a selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Quality Paperback Book Club.

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