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A Review of
Let Me Out: Unlock Your Creative Mind and Bring Your Ideas to Life
Hardback: Tarcher Perigee, 2016
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Reviewed by Bailey Shannon
Let Me Out: Unlock Your Creative Mind and Bring Your Ideas to Lifeis an insightful and practical tool to help us discover the fears that hold us back from pursuing our dreams and make steps toward living a creative life. Written by Peter Himmelman, musician and founder of Big Muse, a company that teaches leadership skills, creative thinking, and deeper levels of communication, the book offers a wide array of unique metaphors, like giving a name to our fear and negative self-talk, referring to our dreams as our “finished song”, and including various exercises called Brain Bottle Openers at the end of each chapter. Himmelman’s life experience influenced his method and style of writing and he presents valuable information in a way that leaves the reader with a tangible “next step” to turn their dream into a reality.
Himmelman’s book differs from other self-help, creative living books, in that it suggests concrete ways to start moving toward a dream or idea. For example, at the end of each chapter he offers an exercise he named “Brain Bottle Opener” and a Real World Application paragraph help to apply the ideas he presents to our everyday lives. Initially, when I read the book, I skipped over the exercises, thinking I would come back to them as needed. However, upon finishing the book, I found myself with a free afternoon and decided to go back through and complete all of the Brain Bottle Openers. Although the exercises seemed a bit clichéd, they were helpful and thought-provoking.
While reading the book my interest waxed and waned — I went from really enjoying it and agreeing with Himmelman, to criticizing and finding fault in the points he made. This mostly was a result of having recently read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Gilbert writes in a lyrical style that engages the right brain, something that resonates more so with me than Himmelman’s pragmatism. While he does a decent job proposing practical methods for bringing ideas into existence, I think it is difficult to read about creative living through such linear language.
Himmelman defines creativity as, “our fearless engagement with the world around us” (19). He says that freeing ourselves from the constraints of our fear is how we will reveal our innate creativity (XVI). One of the first points Himmelman makes is the idea of leaving room for fear in our lives. Fear, or Marv as he named him, has a purpose and we need to make space for him. “It’s a part of us that needs to be valued and understood… it’s a very real and integral part of our psychological makeup, one that cares strongly about our own survival” (4-5). Gilbert suggests a similar point: “Here’s how I’ve learned to deal with my fear: I made a decision a long time ago that if I want creativity in my life — and I do — then I will have to make space for fear, too. Plenty of space” (24).
Both Himmelman and Gilbert prompt the reader to write a note to Marv, speak directly to fear, letting him know that everything is going to be okay. Acknowledging fear as a valuable, instinctual, and protective part of who we are — without letting him take control — will help fear and creativity to coexist.
After addressing our fear, Himmelman transitions into talking about what it means to unlock our creativity. This is where the practicality of his book becomes really useful. Each chapter’s Brain Bottle Opener (BBO) helps the reader learn and practice creativity. One exercise that encouraged me to pursue an idea, a more creative life, was the Future Vision BBO where the author had us write down, in full detail, where we saw ourselves in three years. We only had five minutes and we had to describe what we saw, smelled, felt. Who was I with? What was I doing? Before that activity I don’t think I ever sat down and realistically thought about where I would be in three years. The exercise was empowering and helped me reevaluate some of the upcoming decisions in my life to make sure they were in line with this Future Vision I casted for myself. The most important part of this exercise, though, is that the Future Vision is not meant to set limitations, but enables us to dream up what we could be and what we want to be doing in the near future. To this point, Gilbert says, “Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart”.
If you are looking to confidently live a more creative life, begin a creative endeavor, or use your brain in new and liberating ways, Let Me Out can assist you and provides ways to harness that creative energy in innovative and practical ways.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com
Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith
"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior
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