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The creative process in action: Eric Hoffer’s diary January 20, 2007

Posted by Dennis Mellersh in Personal Growth Books.
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Eric Hoffer is one of my favorite authors, particularly in terms of being able to see the creative process in action. This is just a quick post I thought I would make as I have just re-discovered and am re-reading what to me is one of Hoffer’s most interesting books, Working and Thinking on the Waterfront. I talked about finding this book as an example of synchronicity in a post I did on synchronicity as it relates to the Law of Attraction.

This is one of those books that I enjoy re-reading every year or so. What makes this book different from others I have read on the act or process of creativity is that it is a diary. In the preface, Hoffer explains that he wrote in this diary during a period when he had some form of writer’s block and couldn’t seem to be able to transfer his thinking coherently into prose. So he kept a diary or journal, wrote in it mostly every day and used it to get down on paper some of the thought processes he was going through.

Hoffer was a longshoreman who worked unloading and loading ships on the waterfront, using his spare time largely for reading on a wide variety of topics and writing and forming his theories. During the period when he had trouble writing he explained that he had written some material on a book he was planning on intellectuals. However, as he notes,  “It soon became clear that my theories and insights would not come to more than forty pages of manuscript – enough for a chapter, but not a book.”

Hoffer explains that he began to suspect that all of his thinking throughout his adult life stemmed from a central preoccupation, but that he was concerned he might never discover what it was. Hoffer said, “I had to sort things out; talk to somebody. So, on June 1 1958, I began a diary. Toward the end of March 1959, I realized that my central subject was change.” He stopped writing in his diary in May of 1959.

For anyone interested in the creative process, this is a fascinating book. It’s about 180 pages, and is best read front to back as, being a diary; it is in a chronological format. The hardcover copy I have was published by Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, and is copyright 1969, by Eric Hoffer, so I assume that is the publishing date.

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