Review: Creativity, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (Harper Perennial Modern Classics), by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, explores the practices and traits of the contemporary world’s most influential creative minds.

Based on his own research, the book breaks down insights he gained from interviewing 91 exceptional individuals in a wide variety of fields between 1990 and 1995–including a number of major notable figures such as author Madeline L’Engle, astronomer Vera Rubin, and many others.

As Csikszentmihalyi states in the introduction, “The genuinely creative accomplishment is almost never the result of a sudden insight, a lightbulb flashing on in the dark, but comes after years of hard work.” Through these interviews, the book investigates exactly how and what is involved in the accumulation of these years from every angle.

The content is dense, but the writing in Creativity is accessible. I found myself fascinated, so much so that I had to read slower to take it all in, and accidentally ended up bending back almost every other page to mark some exceptional quote or insight … something I generally try to avoid when borrowing from the library. (My apologies to all who must read this copy of the book after me.)

But in addition to featuring small portions on one of my own idols, L’Engle, the book was fascinating for its careful and personal look into the childhoods, personalities, daily habits, attitudes, adult lives, gender, and domains of these exceptional minds.

creativity by mihaly csikszentmihalyi

Most of the book focuses on these high-level accomplishments … the kind that win Nobel Prizes and shifts paradigms. Or, as Csikszentmihalyi puts it, creativity with a capital C. But in his conclusion, Csikszentmihalyi wraps up by taking the findings of his research and sharing insights about how to apply it for us little-C creatives. While we might not all win global awards, we can still greatly enrich our lives, and the lives of others, with his insights. These included:

  • To keep enjoying something, you need to increase its complexity
  • Try to surprise someone every day
  • Do more of what you love, and less of what you hate

But these are just a few small tidbits pulled from an entire section focused on enhancing personal creativity.

Creativity is a fascinating read, with something for all types. If you’re curious about who the biggest minds in your field got to the top, or if you’re just looking to learn more to enhance your own creativity, this book is worth the read. I loved every page of it, and I’ve already added Csikszentmihalyi’s other book Flow to my to-read list.


Sorry, I don’t post on Creative Juicer anymore.

If you like what you see & want more, join my author email list for updates on my writing, posts about sci-fi and fantasy pop culture, and other readerly fun by clicking here.

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6 thoughts on “Review: Creativity, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

  1. I relied heavily on the lessons of this book when interviewing artists about their creativity and living an art-committed life. It is dense, and it is insightful (and I never know how to pronounce his name when I talk about him). His book Flow actually came out before Creativity (he’s most known for Flow) but a lot of the Flow lessons are found in Creativity.

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