Mentally blocked? Try a coffee table book.

We’ve all been there. You need to do some creative task like create a design or write something important and it happens: you get mentally blocked. How do you get out of that stalemate with yourself?

This is going to sound really corny, but I keep coffee table books around on topics I find interesting. What I find works best is to have ones that have lots of pictures in them that you can look through quickly until something catches your eye. Looking at something else that I think achieves greatness helps me unlock my own thoughts on whatever it is I’m trying to do.

I’m a huge Disney and Star Wars geek (as regular readers of this space are aware), so these are some of my favorites:

Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look At Making the Magic Real As the name implies, this one has tons of artist renderings of Disney rides and entire parks from their earliest stages of conception, often comparing them to the real structures that got built. It also goes into the details that you don’t notice in the parks, like ambient sound, color design, and costuming. Back stories are explained, even those that are never exposed do the public, but that help Imagineers with the cohesiveness of the various design elements. Conceptual drawings and model photos abound in this book and are probably my favorite parts.

Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Special Effects This one is somewhat dated since almost all effects are done digitally now, but it traces the history of ILM through different movies they worked on during their first 10 years of being in business. Lots of tricks that aren’t used any more, but are highly creative in their nature are discussed in detail and with examples of actual use. Optical compositing, creature making, model construction, and matte paintings are among the techniques covered. There’s an interesting segment at the end on the future of digitizing movies that is a pretty close prediction of what is happening in movie making today.

I like both of these because they present interesting problems and creative solutions to them. These topics might not be for you, but I’ll bet you can find something to your liking that goes into depth about some hobby you are equally obsessed. Let it transport you away from your current task for 10-15 minutes, which should be long enough to get past a block and on with whatever it is you were struggling to finish.


2 Responses to “Mentally blocked? Try a coffee table book.”

  1. Liz Says:

    What a great post. Great idea…I will have to try it.


  2. Book Report: The Disney Mountains - Imagineering at It's Peak | Nerd Guru Says:

    […] Imagineering At Its Peak and along with the many conceptual sketches I love to look at and use to take 5 minute vacations, there’s a great story about how an idea survived by changing and in the process became among […]

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