The Magic of Your Mind: A Gnomes' Review

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  • GARY A. DAVIS

    The Magic of Your Mind:A Gnomes' Review

    (Scene: Tiny living room in the Enchanted Forest homeof Fred, the book review gnome. Fred is out, but two visit-ing friends, Rodney Dangergnome and Gnome Rickles, arebusily exchanging insults when a tap-tap is heard at thefront door. They open the door to find a book reviewer inneed of assistance.)

    BOOK REVIEWER: Hello, is Fred home?GNOME Does it look like he's here? Would I be answerin' the door if theRICKLES: master of this humble abode was present? You're a deep

    thinker, ain'tcha!RODNEY (Straightening his tie) Fred ain't here right now. He's over at

    DANGERGNOME: the library tryin' ta' find me a book on how to get more respect.Can we help you with somethin'? Come in and sit down.

    REVIEWER: (Enters and sits) I've got this super new book I wanted todiscuss with Fred. We do book reviews together.

    DANGERGNOME: Book reviews, huh. Sounds very respectable. What's thebook about?

    REVIEWER: It's called "The Magic of Your Mind," by SidneyJ. Parnes. He'sPresident of the Creative Education Foundation.

    RICKLES: Magic, eh? An' what's so magic about it?Maybe you could sayyour piece an' do a disappearin' act! We got important stuff todo, like snappin' some string beans for supper.

    REVIEWER: It's a great book, really. Parnes is a marvelouslycreative personwho has worked full time for 25 years teaching creative prob-lem solving in courses, institutes and workshops. He's triedplenty of ideas and strategies, and the very best ones - the

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  • The Magic of Your Mind: A Gnomes' Review

    ones that work - are in this book, Parnes puts it all together-the attitudes, techniques and problern-solvinq strategies thatwork. Especially, he teaches readers to get into the habit ofusing a five-step problern-solvinq strategy.

    RICKLES: It sounds like Mr. Magician knows his stuff!REVIEWER: He certainly does. He conjures up his most enlightening

    insights into the nature of creativity, creative thinking, creativeprocesses, creative people and especially how to use whatyou've got to become a more effective creative thinker.

    DRNGERGNOME: Izzat important? What if I ain't got no problems? I ain't sayin' Idon't, but just 'what if?'

    REVIEWER: Parnes knows that the creative thinking attitudes and strate-gies he teaches will do more than help you solve problems.They improve your life. He wants the reader to become a morecreative and flexible person - one who recognizes problems.challenges and opportunities; one who can make effectivedecisions and action plans; and one who is ready to meetchallenges, prepare for the future, and get more out of life. It'svery important.

    DRNGERGNOME: SOthis book will guarantee I'll be happier and more successful- so's I can get more respect? I already read a couple' thembooks - they promised to teach me the key to total mindpower an' how to magnify my brain power by a factor of2,401 - exactly. So I bought the books, read 'em, waved acouple' magic wands, said "open Sesame Street" an' aliI gotwas a case of dented wallet!

    REVIEWER: Nope, no guarantees. Parnes repeats that his procedureswon't "guarantee" anybody anything. But they will increasethe probability that"creative connections" among ideas willhappen. He doesn't create any illusions.

    RICKLES: Creative connections, eh? Sounds like a book on how to buildyour own TV set! What else does Houdini have to say?

    DRNGERGNOME: Yeah, if we're gonna' spend 25 bucks on a 800 page book onhow to be more creative and get more respect, there's gotta'be more!

    REVIEWER: Actually, the book is short, There are no wasted words, Thereare no excursions into psychological theories of the creativeperson or the creative process. But, there are exercises usingillusions demonstrating creative changes in perception, andthere are descriptions of creative thinking techniques, Thesetechniques can help you find still more ideas after you reachinto your magic hat and can't find any,

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    RICKLES: Creative thinkin' techniques, eh? My show-biz idea-findln'technique is easy, I just think of insults. Dangergnome heregets on stage and puts himself down with that "I don't get norespect" routine. For him it's easy, 'cause he don't. All creativepeople use idea-flndin' techniques. What techniques does Mr.President Parnes talk about?

    REVIEWER: Standard techniques, like attribute listing, morphological syn-thesis, metaphorical thinking, using idea checklists and work-ing backwards from an ideal goal. They can always help youfind a few more ideas. He also gives the reader practice usingmental imagery, which is very important in creative thinking,and in using incubation.

    RICKLES: Mental imagery and incubation? Now he's hatchin' pretendchickens!

    DRNGERGNOME: Short book, eh? How's he expect to get any respect writin' ashort book?

    RICKLES: Whata' you care, dummy? You can't read anyway! Are thereany pictures for this idiot? Some kiddie cartoons maybe?Some that ain't too hard to unnerstan'?

    REVIEWER: Funny you should ask. In its total of 232 pages, there are 118full-page cartoons - a bit over half the entire book. The Magicof Your Mind is so unique you'll love it before you read it.

    RICKLES: There ya' are Rodney, a comic book for adults! Just what a slowlearner like you needs!

    DRNGERGNOME: Now just a minute, Rickles. Maybe those cartoons are deepand thought-provokin'. Maybe only a sophisticated an' respect-able entertainer such as myself could unnerstand 'em,

    REVIEWER: When you first pick up the book, you just can't resist flippingpages and reading the cartoons. In fact, my first reaction wasthat Parnes is attempting to motivate interest by entertainingthe reader. I would never do that. However, when you beginreading you realize that every single one of those jokes isrelevant to the message on the previous or following page.Good cartoonists are philosophers with a keen ability to seereality, to lay bare simple truths about human nature, to see thesilliness of social expectations and to see how our habitsinterfere with creative, unconventional thinking.

    RICKLES: Look, Mr. High-Class Book Reviewer, are the cartoons funny-like me an' Dangergnome - or are they just trying to teachus somethin'?

    REVIEWER: Both, actually.

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    RIC.LES: How about some examples of these trashy cartoons? When itcomes to comedy, me an' Dangergnome know our stuff!

    REVIEWER: How about one from Peanuts:Linus: What's wrong with patting birds on the head?Charlie Brown: It humiliates your sister to have people go up

    to her and say "your brother pats birds on the head."Linus: I can understand that, but what's wrong with it? It

    makes the birds happy and it makes me happy. Sowhat's really wrong with it?

    Charlie Brown: Nobody else does it!RICKLES: That's good stuff. Maybe not for Broadway, but definitely

    Peoria!REVIEWER: Here's another one with the same message:

    Bird: What are you doing up there? Elephants don't climbtrees. Every animal book published will bear me out.

    Elephant: Gee ...Maybe I better get down.DANGERGNOME: Same message? One was elephants an' one was Charlie

    Brown. Oh, I get it - Elephants and Peanuts! My dad took meto the zoo once. The zoo keeper said, "Thanks for bringin'him back!"

    RICKLES: The message, dummy, is that people have habits an' traditions,and anybody who does somethin' different can get hisself intotrouble! Any other hysterical themes, Mr. Reviewer?

    REVIEWER: Cartoonists are creative people with super insights into thedifficulties of thinking and creating. One I liked was Snoopy,who just says: "Sometimes, when you are a great writer, thewords come so fast you can hardly put them down on paper... sometimes:'

    RICKLES: Any more you'd like to recite before I fall asleep?REVIEWER: Here's one on awareness and sensitivity:

    Woman: You're completely insensitive to my needs.Man: You're wrong. I just didn't know you had needs.

    DANGERGNOME: Say, doesn't that mean that he really was insensitive to herneeds? Is that the funny part?

    RICKLES: You got it, Rodney, congratulations! Now shut up, you'rernakin' a fool of yourself!

    REVIEWER: How about just a couple more. This one emphasizes thetrouble inflexibility can get you into: "About this, 'liberty ordeath' business, Mr, Henry? Isn't there some reasonable posittion in between?"

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    RICKLES: Good lesson on the virtues of creative compromise. Maybeyou can send a copy of the book to the Ayatollah!

    REVIEWER: Cartoonists often use the naivete of children in cartoons.DRNGERGNOME: Absolutely! The other day I wuz tellin' my kid brother about the

    birds and the bees, an' he told me about my girlfriend and themilk gnome!

    REVIEWER: Parnes recognizes that children often put together fresh asso-ciations and ideas because their minds are not as clutteredwith habits, traditions and conformity pressures. For example,two kids are looking at a little widget one just found. One says,"Mommy said to throw it away, it's nothin' - but it sure lookslike somethin' to mel" And two more are standing in front ofagum ball machine. One says, "You put in the penny and I'llflush it!"

    RICKLES: Now that's funny! Bathroom jokes always get a laugh!DANGERGNOME: Sure, they get a laugh! But they don't get no respect!

    RICKLES: SO the book has more pages of jokes than pages of readln'and wrltin'. What else does Mr. Magician tell us about bein'more creative?

    DANGERGNOME: What was the one about the peanuts and the elephant again?REVIEWER: The book is filled with Parnes' insights into the nature of

    creatiVity-little gems. For example:"Ironically, the child has oodles of imagination, but often very

    little judgment; the adult acquires oodles of judgment, butoften loses the imagination."

    "Most of us, through fear of ridicule or censure, tend to playsafe. Ideas are expressed only after we are sure of their worthand acceptance."

    "You can make me cut my hair, but you can't make me cutmy ideas!"

    "More and more we tend to do exactly what we've done before,erring less often, but rarely finding new ideas for growthand development."

    "Occasionally, the most prosaic ideas still turns out best."DANGERGNOME: I'm beginning to suspect that Mr. Parnes knows that which

    whereof he speaks!REVIEWER: Indeed he does. Now maybe I should back up. The book

    divides into two parts. The first part, which includes six of thetwelve chapters, is considered an " orientation." In fact, Parnessuggests that the reader could skip Part I if he or she alreadyis acquainted with the basics of creative thinking.

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  • RiCKlES:

    REVIEWER:

    DANGERGNOME:

    REVIEWER:

    RiCKlES:

    REVIEWER:

    RICKLES:

    REVIEWER:

    RICKLES:

    REVIEWER:

    DANGERGNOME:

    RICKLES:

    REVIEWER:

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    The M.gJc:01Your Mind: A Gnomes' Review

    So we can skip Part I? The dummy writes a book an' then tellsyou to skip the first half!Actually, it would be a mistake to skip any of this marvelousbook. Part I explains why creative problem solving is important,why humor is used, and ...I give up, why would a serious and respectable book usehumor?Because, as Parnes explains, a "fun atmosphere" can makeideas appear, because creativity involves "playing" with ideas,and because the cartoons always have a message related tocreative thinking and creative people, as I mentioned earlier.Rodney has trouble payin' attention. Straighten your tie, Rod!Part I also explains some of the purposes of the book, namely,to help you deal more speedily and effectively with challenges,to help you break mental sets that interfere with creativity, tohelp you learn to cope with a changing world, to help you learnto create more options for yourself and to help you take a morepositive, optimistic attitude. In short, to help you become ahappier, more successful and more fulfilled person.How about some "optimistic" jokes?The overweight person looks at the scale and announces,"How about that, rm a foot and a half underheight!" And in anapparently true story about a series of thousands of unsuc-cessful experiments, Thomas Edison was said to exclaim,"We've had wonderful results! We know thousands of thingsthat won't work!"Not bad for an amateur. Now what other rabbits can we pull outof Part I?He explains "thinking" as making mental associations, andsays thatcreative ideas are new connections among associa-tions. Part I also explores blocks to creativity. Parnes describestwo main blocks. anxiety, fears and insecurities about our newideas, and conformity and habit-bound thinking.I know about insecurity! My mother used to say she liked me asa friend.Any "habit-bound" jokes?Of course. Dennis the Menace, sitting in a corner as punish-ment, insightfully observes, "Nobody ever said, 'Don't paintthe toilet purpler" And a company president hiring a newperson gives this advice: "We expect our young executives toproduce creative, innovative ideas, without upsetting our time-honored customs:'

  • The Journal of Creative BeNvIor

    RICKLES: So we got habits and blocks that interfere with new ideas. DoesSoothsayer Parnes tell us how to rub a magic lamp an' getover 'em?

    REVIEWER: Actually, this is where one of the main points of the bookappears - deferred judgment. Parnes describes deferred judg-ment as ". .. a fundamental principle that can open us to thegreatest flow of associations or connections of new ideas. Itfrees us from anxieties about the worth and acceptability orappropriateness of raw ideas .. ,Deferred judgment involveslooking at ideas and seeing where they might take us insteadof merely trying to see what's right or wrong with them." ,"

    DANGERGNOME: Now wait a minute! How can such a simple idea be so im-portant? Anybody can learn to postpone their criticisms-except Rickles!

    REVIEWER: Parnes explains that deferred judgment is simple to under-stand, but deceptivelydifficult to internalize. It requires practice.

    RICKLES: Practice, schmactice! What else you got in Part I? Like I told ya',me an' Rodney got more important things to do - them stringbeans need snappin'. So you don't criticize, an' you come upwith a stack of ideas, right?

    REVIEWER: True, Parnes explains that when idea production begins todwindle, it's time to begin evaluating - establishing criteria forassessing the worth of the ideas.

    DANGERGNOME: It's easy to evaluate new jokes - if nobody laughs, it ain't agood joke. Did I tell ya' that when I was a kid I thought every-body ate Meow Mix for breakfast?

    REVIEWER: Parnes gives great suggestions for finding idea evaluationcriteria. He itemized a ..general checklist" ofcriteria that mightbe relevant for any sort of problem, For example: costs, moralor legal implications, effects on groups involved, materials andequipment, attitudes and opinions, repercussions of failure,new problems created, timeliness, fringe benefits and so on.It's a good list.

    RICKLES: Any more? Spit it out, sonny.REVIEWER: The creative thinking techniques are introduced in Part I, but

    they mainly will get used in Part II. Part I also emphasizes theimportance of incubation and mental imagery. With incuba-tion, the thinker gets a...

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