Book Summary: The Creative Curve by Allen Gannett

Creative Curve Book Summary_The Productive Blog

    Title: The Creative Genius: How To Find The Right Idea At The Right Time

    Author: Allen Gannett

Why are some people considered “geniuses” and others not? What do they have that make them ripe for flashes of insights or sudden aha moments?
Is it because there is a creative genius behind it? Do most of us have no chance of hitting mainstream success? 
In The Creative Curve, author Allen Gannett seeks to break down the myth surrounding the creative genius. He offers a template to reverse engineer creative success so we can all (potentially) do it. 
Consumption and hard work are just a few of the elements that go into creating a masterpiece.  For example, J.K. Rowling said she was suddenly struck by the idea for Harry Potter while on a train ride. Fulfilling the “inspiration theory,” one might believe it. Yet, she spent countless hours reading as a child through to adulthood. She read all genres and through this, she learned different writing styles and plot twists. Her intense consumption gave her the raw ingredients for her own future creativity. In other words, Rowling followed the creative curve (more info below).


Key Quotes:

Achieving your creative potential isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires countless hours, days, and even years of work. But it’s no longer a mystery.


My Reading Notes:

  • Creative success is learnable.
  • Neuroplasticity says our brains’ physiology can adapt to new experiences and information. Both men and women create over 1,400 new brain cells every day. Once created, they take eight weeks to mature. During that time, these new cells move to the most active parts of the brain. If you’re learning a new skill, these new cells are ready to help. If they’re not used (Netflix V.S. reading) then they’re at risk of dying off. In short, learning makes our brains retain new cells.
  • The “Inspiration Theory of Creativity” is a myth. There are countless anecdotes which perpetuate this myth. There are four main elements of this myth:
    1. It’s an individual act, a “solo genius” is born with all these amazing talents.
    2. Flashes of insight or sudden epiphanies will bestow itself upon an individual.
    3. Once inspiration (a tune, a plot line, a new app idea) strikes an individual, success will follow.
    4. Creative people (Steve Jobs, Mozart) are “made geniuses” with a touch of neuroses or mania.
  • What is the “Creative Curve?” It’s a bell-shaped curve that examines the relationship between preference and familiarity. The more you’re exposed to something (i.e. a song), the popular it becomes. When it reaches a  peak, the idea becomes overexposed and leads to a drop in popularity.
  • The “10,000 hours principle” says to become an expert, you have to “practice, practice, practice.” However, researcher K. Anders Ericsson (who wrote the study Malcolm Gladwell cited in his book Outliers) says all this practice is useless unless it’s deliberate practice. Break down a skill into very, very small increments and practicing that small piece of skill over and over again. Just because you’ve done something for 10,000 hours, does not make you an expert. If you drive for 10,000 hours, you don’t become a Nascar driver.
  • Simultaneous inventions – when two or more people come up with the same idea at the same time. Alfred Wallace was a co-discoverer of the theory of evolution. Yet, only Charles Darwin is remembered as coming up with it. They were peers and Wallace sent a letter with his theory to Darwin in 1855. Wallace was still abroad, exploring and collecting data. Darwin did not copy Wallace’s idea, he had reached the same theory years earlier. The letter spurred Darwin into action. The two men published a joint paper in 1858. The key moment that set these two apart in history came in 1959 when Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species. Meanwhile, Wallace faded into obscurity. Timing and
  • The “divergent thinking test” can measure creativity – this involves coming up with numerous solutions to a problem. The more divergent your thinking, the more creative you are. People with high and low IQ’s can score the same on this test, proving creativity is not linked to intelligence.
  • Creativity and genius are social phenomena. There are several elements that work together to make up a creative genius. Technical skills, the right timing, having the right resources, attaining gatekeepers interest and being a persuasive salesperson for your own brand.
  • The crux of the book is the “Four laws of the Creative Curve.” This includes consumption (familiarizing oneself with a chosen field), imitation (learning from successful predecessors), creative communities (finding collaborators or mentors), and iterations (progressively elaborating ideas)
  • Creative iterations are important when making any product. An idea should go through a funnel: conceptualization, reduction, curation, and feedback.

Actionable Items:

  1. Consumption: Spend at least 20 percent of your time-consuming content in your field. If you’re a blogger, read. If you’re a singer, listen to music.
  2. Imitation: Analyze what others are doing in your field and think about what’s missing. How can you create something new that is familiar but has a touch of novelty?
  3. Creative Communities: Seek out mentors or a join meet up group in your field. Connect with like-minded individuals you can learn from and be challenged by.
  4. Iterations: Go back to the drawing board often. Review feedback and adjust.


Enjoyed this Book Summary? Inspired by Bill Gates Notes, together with my personal pursuit of continuous improvement – I’ve started a Book Summaries blog mini-series. Here, I share some nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned along the way.

~ Persist and Grow Forth ~