Book Review: Creativity, Inc

 

Every once in a while you come across a book you would never attempt to read but for some stupid reason you do, and you are so thankful you did. This is one of those times.

While researching material on writing, I came across a recommendation for a book, and I kind of scratched my head. This was a book on business, and there was just no way I would read a book on business – my eyes would glaze in the first page, the same way they do if someone is talking actuarial tables or student loan forms. What could such a book have to do with writing? It just so happened the library had a copy I was able to grab. And that book, despite being a couple of years old (2014), is the best book I have read so far this year.

Creativity, Inc. is written by Ed Catmull,  who was part of the driving force behind Pixar Studios, the film company known for making ground-breaking and award-winning (and record-breaking, with more than 14 Billion dollars in revenue) animated films, such as Toy Story, Monsters,Inc, A Bug’s Life, and more. When Pixar and Disney merged in 2006, he applied his same priciples to the flagging animation department at Disney, who hadn’t had a hit in 16 years. Disney shot right back up with films like Wall-E, Cars, Incredibles, Coco, Brave, etc. To read this book is to relive the last 30 years of animated film making. If it’s not a walk down memory lane for your childhood, it is a reminder of all the wonderful films you saw with your children. If you haven’t enjoyed any of them, run and grab one today. 

What is Catmull’s secret? Of course a strong bottom line is what investors want, and Catmull agrees, but he refuses to allow the creativity of the artists to be stymied in any way. There are no superstars – not even preferred parking. Everyone from the janitor to the lunch lady to the writer is allowed equal – respected – input. Employees are encouraged to do what it takes to keep happy and relaxed, because happy employees are productive employees. They are encouraged to take time for classes offered at work – art, archery, whatever. If they are producing a film in Africa, a team of writers and artists will take a field trip to Africa and experience what they are trying to portray. Films, from first idea pitch to final cut – are brought up for constant, honest review, where the ensemble team toss ideas off each other about the work, good or bad, and the film may take a twist for the better from it. Every artist is respected every step of the way. Written into the contracts is a proviso that if a film reaches a certain amount of return, a portion of that is given to the employees as a bonus.

Needless to say, Pixar and Disney Animation staff are  happy to go to work. 

So, how did that all relate to writing?

Remember that movies start as stories. Someone has to write them before they can be filmed. By keeping an atmosphere that encourages creativity, no matter how odd (come on – talking cars? Emotions? Bugs? A rat who likes to cook? ), by immersing yourself in a creative environment, by learning to take constructive criticism without imploding, you become a better writer. A writer needs feedback as they develop ideas, as they write the ideas, as they polish their ideas into a final copy.  

This book was a joy to read. Grab it, read it, whether you’re looking for a business model to follow, as a manager looking to improve productivity, as an artist looking for appreciation, as a movie person wanting to know more about Pixar and Disney films. It’s all there. 

Be amazed at the process, and then check out one of the masterpieces Catmull’s presided over. Wall-E, Coco and Up are perfect for adults!

The Incredibles   –  Ratatouille  –  Cars  –  Shorts Finding Dory  –  Wall-E   

Inside Out –  Brave  –  Monsters, Inc  –  Toy Story  –  Coco  –  Up

Self-Help Books to Boost Positivity

Why wait for January’s New Year’s resolutions to be your best self? You can start any time during the calendar year. Small incremental changes work best, and this is where self-help books shine. Go at your own pace, ease in slowly, and you might find you don’t need a New Year’s resolution at all. This month’s Reader’s Depot focuses on self-help books to bring notes of gratitude and love into your daily life.

Almost Everything by Anne Lamott – Presents an inspirational guide to the role of hope in everyday life and explores essential truths about how to overcome burnout and suffering by deliberately choosing joy.

 

Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin – Offers manageable steps for creating a more serene, orderly environment, which contributes to maintaining inner calm.

 

Let Love Have the Last Word by Common – Explores how love and mindfulness can guide people in living their lives and interacting with their communities, and calls upon readers to give and receive love in their lives.

 

Everything is F*cked by Mark Manson – A counterintuitive guide to hope looks at contemporary society’s relationships with religion, politics, money, entertainment, and the internet, and challenges people to be honest with themselves and connect with the world in ways they had not considered before.

 

Where the Light Enters by Jill Biden- The former second lady describes her marriage to Joe Biden and the role of politics in her life and teaching career, sharing intimate insights into the traditions, resilience, and love that have helped her family establish balance and endure tragedy.

 

Nanaville by Anna Quindlen – The author discusses her role as a grandmother and how she learned to support her grandson’s parents by stepping back and following their lead.

 

Brave, Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani – The founder of the Girls Who Code nonprofit shares insights into the toxic cultural standards affecting girls today, explaining how girls can transition from perfectionism to more courageous practices that understand the value of imperfection.

 

The Path Made Clear by Oprah Winfrey – Offers a guide for identifying one’s purpose and creating a framework for a life that is both successful and meaningful, sharing inspirational quotes by some of today’s most influential cultural figures.

 

Gmorning, Gnight! by Lin-Manual Miranda and Jonny Sun – The creator and star of “Hamilton” presents an illustrated book of affirmations to provide inspiration at the beginning and end of each day.

 

On Being Human by Jennifer Pastiloff – An inspirational memoir based on the popular workshop of the same name reveals how the author’s years of waitressing and hearing impairment taught her to recognize unexpected beauty, relinquish shame, and find love in the face of imperfection.

Happy Parents, Happy Kids

Perhaps one of the fastest ways to pick a fight with a stranger is to comment on their parenting style. Around the country, let alone around the world, each culture or region is convinced only their way is right. Yet, American education has been in decline for years, currently ranking 27th in the world.  On the world happiness index, the US only ranks 18th. How do we, as parents, raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted and productive children? Let’s take a look at a few approaches to child-rearing from beyond our shores…

Strict Helicopter

Parenting books number nearly as high as the number of parents, but several have made headlines. At one end is Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua.  China, with more than a billion people vying for jobs, education, and housing, is perhaps the most cut-throat parenting system of all: children seen with potential are removed from homes as young as three, and raised by the state to become champion athletes, mathematicians, scientists. Parents are relentless in ensuring their child’s excellence, demanding study or practice eighteen or more hours a day in a method most Americans would label sheer abuse. Imagine the pressure on an entire class where being #2 is not an option. Chua has no qualms about pushing her daughters into being virtuosos and Ivy League scholars.

Don’t Bug Me, Kid

Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman focuses on the ways the French raise their 

children. “The result of raising children French style, Druckerman writes, is “a fully functioning society of good little sleepers, gourmet eaters and reasonably relaxed parents.””  French parents have a me-first attitude – if the baby won’t sleep through the night by four months, let him cry. They don’t like to breastfeed, because it interferes with intimacy. They don’t speak to their infants in baby talk, treat patience and waiting as the highest virtue after social manners, and feed their infants table food, resulting in children who like to eat normal food. Are French children perfect? Bien sȗr, non, but they seem to have far fewer struggles than Americans.

One Big Happy

The Danish Way of Parenting, by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl may just have a little more power behind it. The Danes often score #1 on the list of Happiest Country in the World. They have high taxes, but they get free education, healthcare, paid maternity leave, and more – those things that are crushing us. To discuss Denmark (and many of the Scandinavian countries), one has to first understand the concept of Hygge, which rules everything the Danish do: Hygge (pronounced hue-guh or hoo-guh) is that warm, huggy feeling of comfort you get when you’re doing something with your family: sitting by the fire drinking cocoa, playing a board game, or maybe decorating cookies together, in one of those commercial-like scenarios where everyone is happy and the kids aren’t fighting and the dog isn’t chewing the game pieces – except, in Denmark, this is actually reality. It’s the land where Norman Rockwell must have taken notes.

The Danes rear their children with this mindset, which transforms them into happy adults. In (very) short:

  1. Don’t overpraise. Find something specific and praise that one thing instead. “What a nice, straight line!” Encourage growth; don’t let your child think s/he’s perfect.
  2. Let your child play. Play. With sticks, rocks, toys, not electronics. Play builds thinking skills, motor skills, social skills, and spatial relations a child needs for education.
  3. Promote togetherness. Family game nights, dinner, movies, puzzles, walks or sports or just playing in the park. Do it together, or with friends. This promotes strong social ties and models appropriate behavior. 40% of American families eat dinner together less than three times a week – 10% never do.
  4. Reframe negative thinking. Dwell on good things, not bad. If your child says they hate school, remind them of the things they do like.
  5. Practice empathy and compassion. Talk about emotions, and help your child learn to recognize them in themselves and others. Compassion for people and animals makes for a caring society.
  6. Let children figure things out for themselves. Don’t hover. Let preschoolers settle their own squabbles (within reason. If Agatha is beating Bjorn with a shovel, you might want to step in). 

There are no absolutes to child rearing. Some children are just darling; others seem to come out of the womb looking for trouble. But in a time when Americans are fracturing at the seams from stress, when schools are failing, children are parenting themselves, and society itself seems to be tearing apart, perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere for advice. Considering the Danes were terrorized by two World Wars and are still the happiest people on Earth, maybe we should listen.

Also try:

        

 

The Fourth of July – How Much Do You Know?

Our Head of Adult Services, Bill, has some Fourth of July facts for you:
The Fourth of July –  also known as Independence Day – is the day we celebrate our country’s birthday. Think you know all there is to know about it? The library’s here to help you celebrate with some fun facts and other ways to learn about democracy and the founding of our nation!

Did you know?

Yankee Doodle” is a well-known American song, the early versions of which date to before the Seven Years’ War and the American War for Independence.  It is the official state anthem of Connecticut. The melody can be traced back to folk songs of Medieval Europe.

In a bizarre coincidence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826 — the nation’s 50th birthday. The two founding fathers and political adversaries died within five hours of each other. 

Americans consume roughly 150 million hot dogs on the Fourth of July enough to stretch from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles five times!

More Fourth Fun Facts:

 

The Declaration of Independence:

The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on July 4, 1776.
On July 4, 1776, Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence, and as a result the date is celebrated as Independence Day. Nearly a month would go by, however, before the actual signing of the document took place. Most of the delegates signed on August 2, but several signed on a later date. (Two others, John Dickinson and Robert R. Livingston, never signed at all.)
One signer of the Declaration of Independence later recanted. On November 30, 1776, delegate Richard Stockton from Princeton, New Jersey was captured by the British and thrown in jail. After months of brutal treatment, a broken and sickly Stockton renounced his signature on the Declaration of Independence and swore his allegiance to King George III.
There is something written on the back of the Declaration of Independence.
In the movie “National Treasure,” Nicholas Cage’s character claims that the back of the Declaration contains a treasure map with encrypted instructions from the founding fathers, written in invisible ink. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There is, however, a simpler message, written upside-down across the bottom of the signed document: “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776.” It’s thought that the text was added as a label.

Read more about it!

ADULTS:

KIDS:

 

Cap off your Independence Day celebration with some fireworks! Here’s where to find them:

In Dog We Trust

Today’s post comes to us from our Teen Librarian, Kelley:

It’s not just a snappy title – I really do have enormous faith and trust in a dog. My husband is blind and he (and I) depend every day upon the amazing skills of his guide dog Becca to help him navigate his world. I can go off to work and not worry about him, because I know he and Becca will manage perfectly well. They’re not stuck at home and are never bored. They go on long walks, golf, visit friends… at this point they actually have a much richer social life than I do! I am filled with wonder every time I see the two of them working together – she warns him of curbs, cars, and dangers both underfoot and at head height, she finds doors, counters, empty seats, and me (!) whenever needed and with great determination and enthusiasm.

Once we were shopping at the grocery store, and a family with children walked by. The parents conscientiously cautioned their kids about not distracting Becca while she was working, telling them that she was a service dog. The littlest child wasn’t quite sure what a service dog was, but he used his own best judgement, and looked out for us for the rest of our shopping trip. He alerted everyone: “Don’t bother that dog- she’s a serious dog!” every time we crossed paths. It was adorable, but he was absolutely correct- Becca is a very serious dog when she is working.

Other dogs besides our Becca do serious work that truly helps others too. These dogs all have natural talents that are carefully perfected with exhaustive training. Detection dogs have exceptional senses of smell. A detection dog is trained to sniff out a particular substance or group of substances such as currency, illegal drugs, explosives, blood, insects, and even cancer. Herding dogs work with various types of livestock, such as cattle, sheep, goats, reindeer, and even poultry. Military dogs assist members of the military with their operations. Police dogs, often called K-9s, are trained specifically to assist police and other law-enforcement personnel in the line of duty. Search and rescue dogs have high energy, great stamina and focus. These highly trained animals serve in many different fields, including tracking, specialized search, avalanche rescue, and cadaver location. Therapy dogs offer emotional support to sick or injured persons, often visiting hospitals, schools, hospices, nursing homes and more.  Service dogs are working dogs that have been specially trained to assist persons with disabilities.

There are many other types of working dogs out there who have real jobs that they take very seriously, and new types of jobs for dogs are being developed all the time. You can read more about them with our doggone good list of books about inspiring dogs who love to work. Good dogs!!

From the Children’s Room: