“I’m just here to create.”
A few weeks ago I posted about how I was going to make 2024 a creative year, and I was starting out by reading Rick Rubin’s The Creative Act: A Way of Being. The opening line above is an excerpt from the book. It’s one of the many lines that I wrote down while I was reading. Not because it was memorable. Mostly because I felt there were so many of these lines peppered throughout the pages and I wanted to keep track of the platitudes.
I won’t claim that Rubin’s book is groundbreaking or incredibly insightful. It’s a book for the layperson, someone who is just starting their creative journey. It feels like the target audience is supposed to be young adults or people who have decided they want to write their first book or paint their first canvas. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m a proponent of creativity and I think everyone should explore their creative side.
I say all this because, while I enjoyed the book, I also didn’t come away with much more than a few nice quotes. Which is better than nothing, I suppose. For someone like me, who has been writing and exploring different creative avenues for many years, it felt more like this was reiterating my beliefs and ideas. In a way, I found that encouraging. Maybe I’m not so crazy.
Admittedly, The Creative Act is an easy read and I wonder if that’s intentional. What I mean is, the sentences, paragraphs, and chapters are all short and concise. Easily digestible. I’m not sure if that’s Rubin’s writing style or if his editor pushed for text that would be accessible to a wide audience.
There’s also a certain religious affectation to the way it’s all presented. Reading this book felt like I was reading a Western take on Eastern philosophy. It’s encouraging, motivational, and spiritual. Here’s an example:
“Art is a reflection of the artist’s inner and outer world during the period of creation.”
While it’s not untrue, it reads more like something a Buddhist monk would write in a treatise on creativity. This book is filled with lines like this. Simple ideas, no solid facts, just a lot of parables and quotable lines. There are quite a few times Rubin alludes to some unnamed artist he worked with and how they tried some unorthodox method to get the desired result in the studio. Each one was vague enough to leave me wondering if it actually happened, or if it was just Rubin riffing.
Overall, the book isn’t bad. As I mention above, it’s an easy read, something the average reader will probably blow through in a weekend. Is it required reading for a creative audience? Not especially. I found it interesting, but I can’t say that I learned anything from it. Your mileage may vary.
If anything, get a copy in paperback and take it to the beach or poolside with you this summer.