- The Storm of Creativity by Kyna Leski
by Kyna Leski. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, U.S.A., 2015. 216pp., illus. Trade. ISBN: 978-0-262-02994-0.
This book is a refreshing and, I believe, unique approach to understanding creativity. Leski refers to creativity in its broadest scope— architects, poets, dancers, scientists, engineers, chefs, anyone who brings to fruition an original creation that did not exist prior to their efforts.
Throughout the book Leski uses the well-known and testable process that governs the development and “way” of a storm as a metaphor for literally understanding creativity. She likens the creation process—its original state, development, regression, expansion and so on—to the way storms develop, reach their peak state and then move or dissipate.
I found this an excellent metaphor with which to understand the process of creation that, for example, an architect goes through to solve design problems. Leski’s approach is far better and much more practical than those found in books that delve deeply into neurophysiology, neuro-transmitters in the brain and so on when trying to understand what happens when creative people work. The neurological approach may be useful as far as it goes, and for specialized reasons. However, knowing that a certain neurotransmitter fires up a certain part of the brain doesn’t help us understand, or more importantly, deal with, for example, writer’s block. Leski’s storm metaphor and analysis does!
This book is very well written, has a smattering of black-and-white illustrations together with a foreword by John Maeda, acknowledgments and an introduction. After the 10 chapters there are notes, a bibliography and index.
Chapter headings cover the creative process in its various, paradoxically separate though merging, characteristics. Chapter 1, “Creativity as Storm,” sets the metaphorical stage. Chapter 2, “Unlearning,” explains how to get rid of preconceived ideas and unlearn information that prevents our creation of new things. Chapter 3, “Problem Making,” shows how to make a problem. Chapter 4, “Gathering & Tracking,” concerns the making of notes, collecting specimens, etc.; Chapter 5, “Propelling,” the already gathered necessities. This chapter shows how use of language and understanding the language of materials (the softness of aluminum for example) are critical in taking a nascent creative concept further toward completion. Chapter 6, “Perceiving & Conceiving,” analyzes the way our senses communicate importance in creating something new. Chapter 7, “Seeing Ahead,” discusses the role of insight, intuition and imagination in the creative process. Chapter 8, “Connecting,” deals with the vitally important aspect of creativity where a connection is made with something new, a previously unimagined “together” quality. Chapter 9, “Pausing,” presents another important aspect of the creative voyage—to “take a break,” let things settle and have time to [End Page 469] percolate. Chapter 10, “Continuing,” looks at how instead of creativity simply stopping at the end of a specific work seeds are sown, so to speak, for future inventions and creations. The abating of the analogical storm is not the end of the storm process. The wind and rain might have ceased but the moisture, and atmospheric pressures involved, are already moving elsewhere and will soon become part of another weather event.
Leski’s use of personal vignettes from inventors and artists is quite extensive; in fact, she is a very good storyteller as well as a technical writer. The book might have been a little humdrum had these gems not been included. She uses these to illustrate the various processes involved in the creation of something new. One of the most interesting is her description of how N. Joseph Woodland “accidentally” discovered (invented) the little black-and-white sticker on everything we buy—the ubiquitous barcode! And yes, she discusses the differences between invention and discovery.
Woodland had been preoccupied with the task of coming up with a way to “encode product data”; he actually quit graduate school to devote himself to the problem. One day he dragged his fingers through the sand and there before him were four lines of varying width; the light bulb went on and the rest, as they say, is history (pp. 26–27). Other brilliant creatives such...