I have been in a creative rut lately. Now that I’m coming out of it, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal but when I was in the worst of it, I felt awful. I was searching for anything that might help.
Enter: Brain Storm by Don Hahn. I bought it at The Last Bookstore in L.A. last year. Don Hahn produced The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. I still don’t know exactly what a producer does, but he worked for Disney, so I thought he would have something insightful to say.
Halfway through the book, I decided I hated this guy.
Perhaps the problem is that I am not his target audience. Hahn is writing from his own experiences as a White, Straight, Christian, Neurotypical Male, and treats it as the universal existence. He quotes a couple dozen men and only two women throughout the book. He consistently generalizes about men and women in an “us vs. them” fashion. Likewise he equates “masculine” and “feminine” to sexual orientation, which isn’t how it works.
Most of his advice works in this context. He suggests taking a day or more to ignore the time and follow your internal clock, which is easier when you’re well-off. One of his major points is that we are living in a time of prosperity, which should allow for more time to be creative. This doesn’t take into account the people who are barely getting by, or neurodivergent people who can’t muster up the energy to work the extra hours. He suggests travel as a way of gaining inspiration. Don’t get me wrong: it is. But he works on the presumption that “travel” automatically means going to another country, and that is just not feasible for everyone.
He does have a few good lines, but most of them come from the beginning of the book. He spends a good hundred pages selling his reader on the idea of creativity and living a creative life. It’s this section that gives us gems like “If we define creativity simply as ‘imagination directed toward a goal,’ then we all have it.” and “There is strength in boldness, and let’s face it, the alternative–doing nothing–doesn’t sound very satisfying.”
But it’s clear that he spends so long selling his reader because that is his strongest point. His strongest idea is to prove that anyone can be creative. This is both true and an important message, but he could have said it in an article instead of in a 300+ page book. Once you get past the pitch, he runs out of things to say – except the parts that are only relatable if you are also Straight, White, Christian, Neurotypical, and Male.
(Also, I am so PISSED that he started a chapter about God and creativity, a subject I am rather passionate about, with a quote from a child molester.)
While he has a few good points, it’s all stuff you can find on the internet. If you’re looking for inspiration, skip Brain Storm.