Rick Rubin's new book | a review

Navigating the unseen world of creativity with one of music's greatest record producers.

"Making the simple complicated is commonplace," Charles Mingus (the American jazz musician) once said. "Making the complicated simple, that's creativity."

Rick Rubin, for those of you who do not know (clearly then you are also new to this site...so welcome) is an American music producer, well-known for his flamboyant approach to getting the best out of artists and his amazing work with likes of Johnny Cash and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, last year release a book called The Creative Act, A Way of Being.

Being a big Rick Rubin fan I bought myself a hard copy of the book and have been slowly absorbing it over the past while.

Even with it being over 400-pages in length it feels like a very quick read.  

The short chapters are jam-packed with wisdom and inspirational insights making it very easy to take in a chapter at a time; it is one of those books that you take on holiday and allow to wash over you as the days flip by.

Part philosophical thesis intertwined with a kind of new-age Shamanic spiritualism position, Rubin's book is his personal reflection on creativity; where it manifests from, how to use it and ultimately what value it offers all human beings.

The book comes across as if Rubin has spent decades methodically researching creativity like a learned academic, but these are the insights of a creativity practitioner who helps real commercial artists get to their true source of inspiration.

His overwhelming message is that creativity is a fundamental part of the fabric of the universe, we all have the capacity to tap into this source of creation, but to do so we need to consciously unlock our own personal anxieties and fears that often prevents us from channelling this flow of cosmic energy.

To do this successfully we need to go deep down into the design of our worldview and go about doing a significant amount of re-framing where needed.

Our modern society is primarily ruled by left brain thinking; right-brained creative thinking is largely assigned to tasks that children are interested in and schooling systems do their best to snuff out rampant creativeness by the time children hit high school. It's no wonder then that creativity, innovation and simple solutions are so often deemed to be inferior to a more analytical worldview, which is where the anxiety and fear most likely comes from.

There is no one guaranteed way to produce creative work.

For some it comes as a moment of divine inspiration, while for others it is a painstakingly-detailed process that can take years to produce something of worth. What is important however, is to continuously practice and play with the creative act in your own way.

Do what works for you and actively ignore the advice and recipes offered by others.

Write daily, draw as often as you can, use your imagination - this are the things that come naturally to us as human beings and for Rubin, is what makes us unique as a species.

Art, for Rick Rubin, is an exploration of the unknown.

Through a series of experiments we test the outer limits of our capabilities and, over time, grow wiser through our constant quest to learn. Life and progress is after all a kind of purposeful unfolding, which helps us develop as individuals and mature as a society.

This kind of purposeful exploration of the unknown isn't reserved for astronauts and physicists, it's the essential activity of life that makes it ultimately worth living.

This is not a book that you can possibly happily read once.

There are so many useful ideas and framings in it that it's one of those titles that you keep on your desk shelf and read a random page of every single day.

It's also not just for 'creative people' - there is a valuable perspective here for all that transcends relevance based on how you would traditionally classify your predominant 'thinking-orientation'.

At a time where everyone seems so obsessed with answers and new tools that seemingly solve our problems with standard answers at scale - The Creative Act prompts us to step away from 'the known', and to rather feel more alive in our active curiousness of what isn't known.

When everyone has a clear answer at their fingertips for everything, it's those that are not afraid to travel new paths that lead the way.  

If you are wanting to up your creative game, it's a worthwhile read.