This post is the first in a monthly series called The Curious Creative, which centers on creativity.

Let’s be honest – the creative process can sometimes feel as alien and mysterious as voodoo. But in his book Imagine: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer makes a compelling case that creativity doesn’t have to be as abstract as society has built it up to be.

Well-written and chock full of fascinating creative anecdotes (from the likes of 3M, Bob Dylan, and Pixar), Imagine has a mass appeal that speaks to right-brained art directors, left-brained researchers, and everyone in between. Most importantly, Lehrer does a great job of explaining the intricacies of the creative process without boring the reader to tears – or coming off as a pretentious hack.

Here are some of my favorite takeaways from Imagine:

  • Creative people are more attuned to what’s going on around them at any given time, rather than blocking it out or discarding it a few minutes later. As Milton Glaser so eloquently tells Lehrer: “We’re always looking, but we never really see.”
  • Let go. Turn off that critical voice in your head (scientifically known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) and just go with it. Channel that inner six year-old.
  • Cultivate a weak, large network. Surround yourself with people outside your industry – you’ll learn more from people who don’t think just like you do (as our close friends tend to). New ideas can come from anywhere, but the best ones will be the ones we don’t even know we need.

Lehrer wraps up Imagine with four meta-ideas, or takeaways for harnessing inspiration both individually and culturally. They’re compelling points worth serious consideration, and I won’t spoil the surprise by revealing them here.

I’m already planning to loan my copy to several people – mainly because I couldn’t stop talking about the latest interesting thing I read that day. It’s an eye-opening read that makes the creative process seem much less mystical and all the more accessible.

If you’ve read Imagine, what did you think? Which of Lehrer’s chapters spoke to you the most?

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