Graduate course assignments notwithstanding, I have always believed that people read what they want and need to read. Depending on my mood, when given free choice in the matter, I gravitate toward subjects of interest to learn more or escapist novels to, well, escape. Lately, I’ve been wrestling with the thorny problem of how to write my next book, and while I have some ideas, I am really struggling with how to frame them to have the most useful impact.
So I want to thank Jonah Lehrer for writing IMAGINE, which totally met my needs. Lehrer provides a steady stream of insights about how to PURSUE insights and confirms my long-held suspicion that creativity comes in different phases. Sometimes—like when we’re stuck—we need to take a walk on the beach or a hot shower, and sometimes—when we can feel that we’re making progress—we need to keep grinding away. Traveling can help, but so can simply having a conversation with a random stranger.
Lehrer suggests lots of other good ideas, and I love the way he keeps us hooked with fascinating “Why” questions, such as “Why do cities exist?” and “Why are geniuses often clustered in certain places and periods?” He also answers some entertaining “How” questions, such as, “How did Bob Dylan write ‘Like a Rolling Stone’?” and “How did Keith Richards write ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’?” His numerous stories add up to a hopeful message, at least for me, that maybe I can make something meaningful out of my imagination.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time for a walk on the beach. And then a hot shower. And maybe a few glasses of wine.