The Path of Least Resistance

With both books and people, I like when they come to the point quickly. If you can get your point across simply, quickly and accurately, that would be a worthwhile quality to have. Unfortunately this book does not have that quality.

This book is about creativity, and how it can be develop by using natural laws – similar to that of physics. Bodies always take the path of least resistance in achieving a task. If you pour water on an uneven surface, it always flows downards through the lowest grooves in the surface. And supposedly the author has a magic key to finding this path. I was taken in by the very interesting opening paragraph of the book when I was browsing it. And I decided to give it a try.

But there are a couple of reasons why I don’t recommend reading this book

  1. The long, winding path to nowhere – The book started off well. The author seemed to be creating a logical foundation on which to expound his theory. But within a few chapters it was evident that the author did not seem to be in any hurry to make his point. I feel that the main point of the book – the juicy content – should be revealed within the first third of the book. At this point I often decide whether it is worth going ahead with the rest of the book or to let it go.  As far as this book is concerned, I’m well beyond this tipping point, and except for a few insights (in the first 80 pages), the author doesn’t seem to present much in his theory of creativity – the so-called path of least resistance.
  2. Sell me some love – Another red flag for me is when an author constantly refers to other content that he has created – it could be another book, a course or a seminar that promises to give more helpful content to those who are truly seeking. I mean if you have written a book, let it contribute independently of any of the other creations that you have in your repertoire. Thus, coming across the ©, ®, or the ™ symbol in a book is downright jarring. It seems like a cheap attempt to cross-sell older stuff. It almost feels like someone scratching nails on a blackboard. The author drops references to his institute and courses quite a few times in the book. According to the author, these courses have helped creative people… well… create more effectively. Well, I thought that is what this book would have helped me do as well.

After these first eighty pages, I started to simply browse the book, hoping to find something engrossing and salvage whatever I could find from the rest of the book. But I realized that the rest of the book was equally filled with jargon that I could not bring myself to spend time on. And for that reason this book goes in my Abandoned pile for now.

I’m sure there are better books out there on creativity. Years ago I recall I read another book on the same topic, The War of Art. This book definitely was better filled with actionable content. And if you’re looking for a way to give the slump in your creativity a boost, getting your hands on that book would be better thant to simply follow the path of least resistance. 😉

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Figuring by Maria Popova – Book Review

The author of this book, Maria Popova is a well known curator of the excellent website brainpickings.org. Brain pickings has an eclectic collection of articles, books and other writings from various disciplines. Each post introduces a work followed by the author’s unique take on the creative work. This site has provided me tons of recommendations for what next to read. And that is why I jumped into this book as soon as i saw it on my recommended list on goodreads. If nothing else this book would be a treasure of trove of new paths to explore in my reading journey.

The book opens with a bang. It starts with a never-ending sentence that is probably one of the longest that I’ve ever read. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Tyco Brahe and Kepler. It brought back nostalgia of when I first read Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and found out how these individuals were as big contributors to the field of astronomy to the more famous names such as Galileo. I had started reading this book even without finding out what the book was about. And I thought the first chapter was giving me an idea of what to expect.

But after reading a few chapters, I feel I may have abandon this book because I still don’t have a clear picture of what the author is trying to say. The book flutters around constantly and introduces a lot of characters at the cost of clarity and coherence.

However, a few chapters down, I lost interest in the material due to the constant flitting back and forth, especially when the author is referencing quotes by others or transitioning into a new character. “A century later”, “Exactly seventeen years later”, “Fifteen centuries ago,” etc. It seemed like the author was trying too hard to fit these disparate thoughts by different individuals into a single narrative. It seemed forced, in my opinion, more like a collection of essays glued into a single narrative.

Moreover the author has used a lot of flowery language at many places when something simple would have sufficed. The opening sentence(if you can call it that) is a case in point. When you quote a lot of writings by other authors in your work, and the language of the quote is simpler than your interpretation of it, there is something going wrong. It feels like the author is trying to make an impression but failing.

I very much wanted to like this book because of the incomparable work that the author has done in building and maintaining the quality of brain pickings. But sadly the same does not translate in this work by her. And this book figuring will stay un-figured for me for quite some time.

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