Book Review

Creativity Flows Through You

March 17, 2024

Rick Rubin shares his lessons on creativity

In his book, "The Creative Act," Rick Rubin eschews celebrity name-dropping or gossipy story-telling about the staggering number of famous musical acts he has produced in the past four decades. Rather he dons the persona of the wise sage, an Alan Watts of creativity offering Zen-like meditative reflections on summoning the muse. Just when you think each chapter is about to end, he offers one more aphorism for ya. So, what can we learn here?

The great works of art are just "all humanity being true to itself."

Artists are not the originators of great art. They are merely the conduits for art. The artist, like nature, is on a cosmic timetable. It is their job to listen.

"As artists, it is our job to draw down this information, transmute it, and share it. We are all messengers for the messages the universe is broadcasting," Rubin writes.

The more we perceive, the more material we get for art, the richer our life in general.

Like fishing, an artist can only cast a line into the cosmos and be there when something bites.

You are your own instrument. Be like a child, with a great wonder about everything, and are open to everything. Nothing is ordinary, no stone is unturned. Inspiration takes priority over all else.

Though it is not something to be relied upon, inspiration can carry you across the entire piece. John Lennon once advised, finish a song in a sitting. Get through a rough draft. A rough version is better than a perfect fragment.

But where to start?

When working on a creative problem, be aware of what is around you, as the universe will provide clues on the next step to take (or, as an old friend once called it, "listening to the Holy Ghost.")

An overheard sentence at a coffee shop may provide the next line for the play you are writing.

Or, pick up a book, and read the first sentence you see. Dreams provide clues. Honor the random.

“Look for what you notice, but no one else sees,” Rubin advises. Artists find the extraordinary in the mundane.

You must have faith in this process, where you travel in a direction while not understanding where it will ultimately take you.