Last month, as I was sorting through some boxes that had remained unopened after our move earlier this year, I stumbled upon a personal artifact that represents the origin of my passion for celebrating and exploring the creative process. As soon as I saw its distinctive hippy-trippy red cover, I knew I had found the booklet that started it all – Have An Affair With Your Mind, edited by Angelo M. Biondi.
Biondi published this 48-page booklet in 1974, when he was executive director of the Creative Education Foundation. He came by his expertise in creativity through associations with and learning from the icons of old-school creative thinking – brainstorming guru Alex Osborn, and Sydney Parnes of the State University of New York-Buffalo.
Although I don’t remember the exact circumstances under which I received the book, I do remember learning in the gifted education classes I was taking in sixth grade about “creative problem-solving,” and that, rather than the obvious association with the arts, formed my early impressions with the word “creative.”
The booklet itself is simple in structure: each chapter discusses a creative problem-solving technique or answers a question about the usefulness of creativity. I can tell from my pencil marks that I was particularly interested in the first chapter, written by Gordon MacLeod, titled “Does Creativity Lead to Happiness and More Enjoyment of Life?” The author’s final paragraph helped me understand creativity as something that was far more than great art or ingenious inventions:
“The creative person is not just the great artist, or writer or inventor. He is the individual who uses his imagination to find effective solutions to his day-to-day problems. His creativity helps him avoid boredom, overcome his disabilities, and laugh at life. … In my opinion, he is a happier person.”
That last thought was of special importance to me, as I was just about to plunge into my adolescence and already felt like something of an “outlier” compared to my peers. I was different – and I was creative. And Biondi’s book helped me understand that this could be an advantage, not a cause for shame.
Much of the content of the book is very practical in nature and aimed at people who have been asked to brainstorm, or who have been tasked with developing new ideas, programs, products, systems – anything where a novel approach is required. There are several chapters on “forced association” techniques, which often lead to creative solutions to problems that don’t easily lend themselves to a fix using the prevailing mental model. Overall, the tools offered in the book remind me of a pre-digital version of Chuck Frey’s excellent resource on the topic, Creativity Hacks.
As the hyperlink of the booklet title suggests, it does appear to be possible to order Have an Affair with Your Mind online. If you’re interested in learning more about modern innovation’s DNA, or just want to collect a bit of informative creativity-related ephemera, check it out!