Creativity Unzipped: Why Your Thoughts Matter
by Jan Phillips and Ruth Westreich
Livingkindness Foundation

"We must see our lives as canvases that we work on all day long, our ongoing masterpieces, the evidence that we were here, and mattered somehow."

She had watched her drunken father abuse her mother since she was a toddler. Although the violence in the household might have stopped after her father was killed in a car accident, the new normal for the now elementary student was becoming the caretaker for her mother who had been born with a hole in her heart. With no siblings to rely on nor readily available mentors she learned to cope with life's periodic problems such as fixing toilets or painting the apartment by herself. Her one outlet, her safe place, was her drawing, and as failure in her world could never be an option, she worked hard to excel in her craft. In the end, that creativity honed at an early age to razor sharpness would help shape her future.

Westreich's childhood experiences give us a small glimpse at how creativity can be both powerful and life-changing, but she, along with her co-author, Phillips, have chosen to explore just how crucial creativity can be in almost every aspect of our lives in this thought-provoking book. For example, the authors quickly dispel the myth that only a select few such as artists or writers have inherited the creative gene while pointing out that all of us are born with it. The simple ability to relate an event such as telling your mom about your first day in school illustrates how we innately understand how to build a story from beginning to middle to climax. This process not only informs but can also serve to establish or strengthen relations we have with others around us.

While Westreich's experience attests to how creativity can benefit us as individuals, our creative side can also be valuable to others. Phillips recalls a time when she was researching people's values on a cross-country trip. After making eye contact with a man in a Waffle House, she explained what she was doing and he agreed to be interviewed. When she asked him where his values came from, however, he was taken aback, so Phillips took a creative approach and shared a story from her past. To her surprise this opened up a flood of emotions and memories both in him and her. By the time the interview was over both she and the stranger she had just met had unlocked new truths about themselves.

The authors examine how creativity plays a positive role in other facets of life, as well. For instance, they cite research which proves how the arts can be used as effective tools in the healing process. Additionally, they illustrate how creativity is a key component in the success of most business ventures. They also draw connections between how it affects our spirituality and can enhance efforts in social activism.

Westreich and Phillips have done an exceptional job of revealing the priceless nature of creativity in our lives. Through personal stories, in depth research, and a plethora of quotes and illustrations from authors and innovators throughout history they clearly show how being creative can enrich almost any encounter or activity in society.

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