The Creative Act: A Way of Being by music producer Rick Rubin seems to be one of those books that brings out strong reactions in readers, good and bad. I’m on the very positive side of the argument and it was a great read for me. If you have a fear of books that seem on the surface like obvious, trivial recitations of cliche, it either may not be for you or just require some patience to get below the surface into the substance of the book.
I think that it’s fitting that a book providing advice to those who seek to create is itself a creative act. In Novelist as Vocation, the novelist Haruki Murakami asserts that to be a novelist you can’t be too smart. Or at least you can’t have crisp, well defined ideas to express. Because if you knew what you wanted to say, you’d write it in an essay as I’m doing right now. The novelist has to bring the reader on a journey of discovery, a journey the novelist travelled in the creation of the fiction. So too Rubin has an idea of what constitutes the right way of being to foster creation, but doesn’t have it down to just a few rules. So the book comes at the ideas obliquely over and over.
Rubin’s findings align with my own experience. Creation is a process and the audience is just the creator. It’s nice when others can also experience the work and take the journey, but the creative act belongs to the artist. It’s what keeps me creating here- photography, philosophy, book reviews, what have you. It’s the result of my process of discovery.
Rubin rightly starts out by asserting we are all creators in one way or another. Making this a worthwhile read for those who create at work, in their family or dabble in the arts.
The book probably doesn’t lend itself to a second reading and note taking. I think it will be more valuable to dip into it from time to time, seeking relevance in its own time.