Zing!… More Like a Gentle Sizzle

A Review of Zing! by Sam Harrison

Zing!

A good portion of my job involves being creative. Whether it is designing a new feature or creating a new interaction paradigm, the lightbulbs have to flash to be really good at UX. For example, I generally try to think of three ways that I can solve a problem before I settle on one just so that I can make sure that I haven’t designed myself into a hole. But thinking of three ways to solve a problem is difficult, especially when my thoughts get slow and sludgy.

Drink it in.

Having to be creative on demand can be a bit draining. Even thought it comes with the job, it can be particularly trying on days when all three of my kids have woken me up in the night, there are big deadlines, and I’ve been in meetings for half the day; it can be hard to find my… Zing! I try to keep my creative font full — TED Talks, browsing dribbble.com, reading Fast Co., listening to music stations, and more. But still, there are days I just feel dull. It is like I see a little creative me dressed in my cowboy hat, my leotard, and my white-girl overbite — she is dressed to the max in creativity; I just can’t reach her.

A friend recommended Zing! to help me with creative tasks. Especially on days when I need that little something extra to get me into a creative state of mind, this book is supposed to be the cure. It purports to help the reader understand the method of creativity and to help bring it forth (just see the cover, shown above, for all you need to know).

The bad news is that this book is kind of lame. It is mostly just descriptions and activities surrounding the “five-step process”: explore, freedom, pause, embrace, life! (Or, you could just read those five steps without the commas to get the “motto” of the book.) Each section is based around one of the steps and has little activities, quotes, and antidotes with pictures.

My problem isn’t with the activities or the quotes. Some of them I found interesting. The problem was that it was just a little too cheap. Creativity is a muse; he is fickle, powerful, and terrible. The steps in this process seemed to be lessing the weight that I feel regarding the creative process. When I need to be creative I pull on great works of art or on tried and true design patterns… sometimes I just go take a shower or a walk. I don’t look to a book that tells me to do mundane activities like create “10 new observations this week.” It all feels stale and forced.

So while I think that there is some merit to what is presented, it wasn’t for me. Instead I would recommend watching some great TED talks on creativity. Or, listening to RadioLab. Or even listening to StoryCorps. StoryCorps always makes me cry and I am always filled with gratitude… something scientifically shown to increase creativity.

Book Club Question

  1. What do you use to tap into your creativity?
  2. What books, even outside of UX, do you think discusses creativity well?
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