"Fanning the Creative Spirit," Maria and Charlie Girsch

Pros: Fun exercises; childlike attitude; silly
Cons: Sometimes feels a bit too much like a corporate training program; silly
Rating: 4 out of 5

First posted 3/23/2005
Review book courtesy of Creativity Central

Maria and Charlie Girsch, toy-makers both, have put out a book on creativity entitled “Fanning the Creative Spirit: Two Toy Inventors Simplify Creativity.” I’m a sucker for fun little creativity books, so how could I resist giving this one a shot? This one isn’t strictly for writers, unlike some of the ones I’ve reviewed in the past, as is probably obvious by the subtitle of the book. It’s for pretty much anyone who wants to fan the flames of their own creativity, whether at work or at home, with respect to any chore, job, hobby–or nothing at all.

This is a comparatively small book, with large margins, plenty of hand-drawn pictures and doodles, stand-out quotes, and so on. This isn’t a thick textbook; whether that’s good or bad depends on your point of view. If you’re looking for something particularly meaty this might not be your best choice, but if you want something non-threatening that won’t make you feel weighed down at the thought of reading it, it could be perfect.

The book includes a wide variety of exercises and tools of all types to help you better access your creativity. Some are more generally designed to increase your creativity or help you see the world in new ways; others are specifically aimed at helping you to tackle projects or problems.

The book is a bit on the silly side. This kind of creativity book is perfect for some people because it helps them to loosen up emotionally, which in turn helps them to loosen up creatively. It puts other people off, however. So again, whether this is a pro or a con highly depends on you.

On the other hand, it also has something of the feel of a corporate training program. This is a little harder to explain, but I’ll do my best. I think it’s because of the acronyms and structured tools and exercises oriented toward teams of co-workers. This gives the book a feeling not unlike being at a work-sponsored seminar, which feels a bit odd to me. But again, this will work fine for some people and not for others.

The Girsches are into the practice of what they like to call “inventivity,” or “inventive creativity that consistently produces benefits for both the generator and the user.” Whether you want to practice a daily “stretch-ercise” to stretch your creativity, or use their “What if? What else? Why not?” mantra as a guide to help you come up with new ideas, you’ll find plenty of solid suggestions and tools in here. For instance, the S.T.O.R.M. method uses a process of diverging/converging steps to help with nearly any sort of problem-solving process. (The acronym stands for State the facts, Tune up the questions, Originate lots of ideas, Reduce the possibilities, Map out a plan of action.)

Whether you’d find this particular creativity book useful and helpful is, I think, highly dependent on your personality. Some people will find the corporate seminar-like structure to be a turn-off; others will roll their eyes at the silliness. However, if those don’t bother you, I think there’s plenty here that will be of value to you. The exercises are handy and fun. The childlike attitude should encourage a loosening of the thought processes. The tools are simple, clear, useful, and well-defined. The quotes are well-chosen, and the tone is encouraging and helpful.

Posted in Reviews, Writing

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