Saturday, April 14, 2012

What I'm Reading: "Creativity," Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Before I started this, I read Flow (by the same author) in a handful of sittings. Csikszentmihalyi's hypothesis in Flow is pretty straightforward to the point of almost being banal: people enjoy their lives more when they're engaged in active and creative pursuits instead of passive, consuming ones. Makes sense: it keeps your mind active, provides a feeling of accomplishment, and so forth.

Conversely, Creativity is a much heftier tome that tackles the lives and environments surrounding Creative [sic] people. (Yes,  Csikszentmihalyi makes a distinction between creative and "Creative.") I'm not very far into it yet, so I can't offer much in the way of a critique or review.  Csikszentmihalyi does seem to be tackling an unorthodox type of creativity: a Creative person is someone who not only has ideas, but has ideas that are recognized by the experts in their field, and whose ideas are then canonized into the new norm. He argues that J. S. Bach, for example, wasn't truly creative until Liszt rediscovered him.

Anyway,  Csikszentmihalyi used to be an editor at a publishing house and it shows, as his prose is eminently readable. There was one quote in particular that struck me (and inspired me to even mention the  book here):

We believe that things that can be measured are real, and we ignore those that we don't know how to measure.
 Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. This is exactly the point I was trying to get to in my scattered and exasperated rant on Slashdot readers and social justice: just because something is harder to quantify doesn't mean it's irrelevant.

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