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  • Roz Duffy

Book Review: The Creative Act by Rick Rubin

As part of our series on creativity, coach, facilitator and creative strategist Roz Duffy reviews legendary music producer Rick Rubin's new book: The Creative Act.

A splatter of pink, red, orange and purple paint
Image: Dan Cristian Pădureț on Unsplash

“The reason we’re alive is to express ourselves in the world," writes Rick Rubin in The Creative Act. " And creating art may be the most effective and beautiful method of doing so.”

Rubin, a legendary music producer, asserts that we are all inherently creative beings. His book, The Creative Act: A Way of Being, serves as a guide to unlocking that creativity and seeing the world through a more expansive and creative lens.

Through 78 transformative essays on topics ranging from the power of intuition to the role of constraints in creativity, Rubin invites us into the depths of our creative psyche and even further into the realm of artistic possibilities. The book's ideas challenge conventional wisdom and open the door to unexpected insights. Get ready to take some notes, mental or otherwise!

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I personally listened to the audiobook version and, as you can imagine, the production quality is top-notch. Rubin’s voice is deep and warm and the wisdom flows. A chime at the end of each chapter serves as a gentle reminder to be present, to be here now, echoing one of the book's key takeaways: the importance of being fully engaged in the moment.

The Creative Act serves as a handbook for a creative life, offering a path through the sometimes messy maze of artistic expression. Much like how Rubin revitalized Johnny Cash's later work by stripping it down to its raw, emotional core, this book distills the creative process into bite-size, yet potent concepts.

One of these concepts is viewing the creative process through four key phases: Seed, Experimentation, Craft, and Completion. In these phases, Rubin guides you from the initial spark of an idea in the Seed phase, where intuition reigns supreme, to the playful Experimentation phase, where possibilities are explored without judgment. Then comes the meticulous Craft phase, where your ideas take shape and are refined, and finally, the Completion phase, where your creation is ready to meet the world.

Building on this, what sets Rubin's model apart is its emphasis on embracing imperfections and the journey itself, rather than solely focusing on the end result. This nuanced approach aligns seamlessly with another key takeaway from the book: the creative journey is not about achieving perfection, but about the process and the opportunity to create something new. This process calls for being fully present, listening to our inner voice, and trusting our intuition.

A hand holding a pencil on a white sheet of paper
Image: Lum3n on Pexels

When we are fully in the moment, our intuition and inner voice become our most valuable tools. As Rubin puts it, “No matter what tools you use to create, the true instrument is you.”

The Creative Act is a must-read for anyone at a creative crossroads, whether in their professional or personal lives. It's also invaluable for anyone seeking to deepen their connection to their intuition and creative spark. Personally, it has made me more attuned to the nuances of my own creative process and inspired me to see the world a little differently.

When you’re ready, pick up the fabric hardcover (I keep one on my desk), and flip to any chapter. See what inspiration is in store for you today. As Rubin says right from the beginning, “Use what’s helpful. Let go of the rest.”


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Roz Duffy is an independent coach and facilitator and works as a creative strategist at MeaningSphere.


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