“ The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates. ”
— Oscar Wilde
Malcom Gladwell titles his book review of Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs in the November 14, 2011 issue of The New Yorker “The Tweaker.” The tag line: Jobs’s sensibility was more editorial than inventive. “I’ll know it when I see it,” he said.
Although I’ve always envisioned creativity as an iterative process, I’d never so effectively separated inventive and editorial sensibilities.
“Isaacson begins with Jobs’s humble origins in Silicon Valley, the early triumph at Apple, and the humiliating ouster from the firm he created. He then charts the even greater triumphs at Pixar and at a resurgent Apple, when Jobs returns, in the late nineteen-nineties, and our natural expectation is that Jobs will emerge wiser and gentler from his tumultuous journey. He never does. In the hospital at the end of his life, he runs through sixty-seven nurses before he finds three he likes. “At one point, the pulmonologist tried to put a mask over his face when he was deeply sedated,” Isaacson writes:
“Jobs ripped it off and mumbled that he hated the design and refused to wear it. Though barely able to speak, he ordered them to bring five different options for the mask and he would pick a design he liked. . . . He also hated the oxygen monitor they put on his finger. He told them it was ugly and too complex.”
The key action here is Jobs ordering “five different options for the mask and he would pick a design he liked.” He wasn’t the designer but was, to use G. W. Bush’s term, the “decider.” I find this bifurcation of creativity helpful, especially regarding the role of revision in design, writing, and creativity in general. If nothing else, it helps me rationalize my obsessions.
The article is available to New Yorker subscribers at http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/11/14/111114fa_fact_gladwell#ixzz1ephi5TwU
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Causes Kevin Arnold Supports
Poetry Center San Jose, East Palo Alto Police Activities League (EPA PAL), Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Yale Writing Conference, Gold Rush Writers