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Apparently the word “creativity” has been around for little more than a hundred and fifty years—in English, that is. Which is surprising, considering how many people have been labeled “creative” since the Renaissance. I’m reading a book with that title—Creativity: the psychology of discovery and invention—by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (whose name is more fun to say than “salsa”), author of Flow and several other books on cognitive psychology. You can guess why this book has risen to the top of the pile by my bedside.

It’s fatuous to think that something so elusive as creativity can be reduced to a diagram; surely we can be more creative in our desire to represent something so fundamental, so foundational to being human. Yet here it is:


I’m only a quarter of the way into Creativity, but far enough to understand that I’m not—creative, that is, at least insofar as Csikszentmihalyi’s meaning of the term. A few years ago, that realization would have upset me. Tonight I’m more sanguine and even reflective about the author’s case; about how an awareness of the process he analyzes might have altered the trajectory of my life. At 70, you’d think this would have been so much water under the bridge. Not so.

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