April 29, 2022


I made 21 highlights while reading Creativity by John Cleese. The book will give you insights into how to become more creative.
  • The greatest killer of creativity is an interruption.

  • You must explore, without necessarily knowing where you’re going.

  • As Einstein once pointed out, if we know what we’re doing when investigating something, then it’s not research.

  • You are most likely to be creative in an area that you already know and care about.

  • ‘Borrow’ an idea from someone you admire - an idea that appeals to you personally. If you start working on that, you’ll make it your own as you play with it. You’re learning, and learning from something or someone you admire is not stealing.

  • When MacKinnon talks about ‘play’, he means the ability to get enjoyably absorbed in a puzzle. Not just to try to solve it so that you can get on to the next problem, but to become curious about it for its own sake.

  • Once it’s agreed when a decision has to happen, why make it before the deadline arrives? It would be foolish because if you can wait longer, two crucial things may happen: (1) You may get new information. (2) You may get new ideas.

  • Leaving a question unresolved, just leaving it open, makes some people anxious. They worry. And if they can’t tolerate that mild discomfort, they go ahead and rush the decision. They probably fool themselves that they’re decisive.

  • The trouble is that most people want to be right. The very best people, however, want to know if they’re right.

  • Your logical brain shouldn’t attack new and ‘woolly’ ideas until they’ve had time to grow, to become more apparent and sturdier. New ideas are somewhat like small creatures. They get easily strangled.

  • Suppose you find that you’ve had lots of vague new ideas and are starting to feel a bit overwhelmed and confused. In that case, that’s the moment to start work on clarifying them, before bringing your logical thinking to bear. Now you’re in a rational, critical period. However, after a time there, you will get a bit bored when you've assessed everything. That’s a sign that now is the moment to go back into your creative thinking mode again.

  • When you eat, the bit where the fork returns empty to your plate isn’t a failure. It’s just part of the eating process.

  • Get your panic in early. The good thing about panic is that it gives you energy.

  • Feeling creative isn’t precisely an emotion. It’s a frame of mind. But if you’re in the wrong frame of mind - if you’re distracted or worrying about something else - it follows that you’re not going to be creative.

  • The language of the unconscious is not verbal. It’s like the language of dreams. It shows you images; it gives you feelings; it nudges you around without you immediately knowing what it’s getting at.

  • My school had an obsession with logical, critical, and analytical thinking. They never appreciated the fact that this mental process is useless if you want to be creative.

  • Suppose we are running around, looking at our watches and checking our smartphones. In that case, there’s no hope in hell that we’re going to notice the subtle messages we’re getting sent.

  • Who are you writing for? You might be writing for academics, in which case you don’t have to be interesting. For people who have a limited attention span, you have to be very interesting. Now ask yourself whether the audience will readily accept what you’re saying or whether they might be resistant.

  • When you finish your first draft, cut anything that is not relevant (there will be more than you think). Don’t repeat yourself unless you must.

  • When showing your writing to people, there are four questions you need to ask: (1) Where were you bored? (2) Where could you not understand what was going on? (3) Where did you not find things credible? (4) Was there anything that you found emotionally confusing? Once you have the answers to these, decide how valid the problems are, and fix them yourself.

  • When should you seek a second opinion? My view is that you should do so when you have reached a point of sufficient clarity for someone else’s judgement to be of practical help.