A review: Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

I normally don’t write book review posts, but I recently finished a book that has so much to offer and was such an enjoyable read that I had to write about it.

The name of the book is Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace. This book might not seem like my usual reading material because it is a management book, but I got a lot out of it.

I was able to relate to the creative process for making animated movies because it’s quite similar to what I do when I write. Additionally, I was able to relate to Ed Catmull’s discussion on the fear of making mistakes and the fear of failure. He explains that fear can keep us from moving forward. It’s something that everyone can relate to. Have you ever not done something simply because you were afraid you’d make a mistake?

It has taken a long time for me to get over this when I write. There was a time when I’d get stuck for days on the same page of my work in progress because I had to get it perfect in the first draft. By doing that, I was keeping myself from getting down a first draft. Now, I worry about fixing the imperfections when I edit.

Mr. Catmull also gives lots of management tips that writers already use (e.g., critiques, brainstorming), but I can see how those tips would work in companies. He discusses these tips by using examples from Pixar. I loved reading all of his Pixar stories.

If you are not interested in reading a management book, you will love this book anyway if you are as big a Pixar and Disney fan as I am. Mr. Catmull tells the entire Pixar story and I highly suggest reading the Afterword about Steve Jobs. You will get a different perspective of him than what you’ve read about before or have seen in the movies.

Overall, Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration is a great read.

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How Television Helps My Writing

As writers, people watching is one of our jobs. When we’re out and about, we watch how people walk and move, we study their mannerisms, and we look at their facial expressions. If we’re close enough, or sometimes not so close if the people are loud enough, we can hear their tones of voice.

For those of us that have jobs that don’t allow us to get out much, we might have limited opportunities for people watching. This is where television is helpful.

When I sit down to watch a show, I notice everything. I don’t watch just for entertainment. I use that time to study. If the actors are in a heated argument, I note everything about the scene–their movements, their expressions, their tones of voice. If there is a particular tic, it doesn’t escape my attention. If a couple is in an embrace or kissing, I look at their hand placement, the tilt of their heads, their expressions before they kiss, and the liplock. I’ve been known to pause and play back the scene I just watched to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

I have a little notebook that I jot all of the details in as I’m watching. But when I write down the details, I try to come up with phrases that describe the action. Instead of saying he’s angry, I might say his eyes lit with fire and his nostrils flared at her words. Some of my phrases may be awful, but some I might be able to use in a future book. My little notebook is another resource for me to go to if I’m stuck on a scene and need that one perfect body movement or facial expression.

If you don’t have a lot of time to go out and people watch during the day, television shows could be the next best thing. Give it a try the next time you sit down to watch your favorite show.

I’d love to hear from you if you try it.