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Creativity: The Perfect Crime by [Philippe Petit]

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Creativity: The Perfect Crime Kindle Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 59 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Make no mistake.
I frown upon books about creativity.
Too often they gather only formulas, point at Einstein and the Beatles but
rarely at the author, propose exercises that mistake the mind for a gym machine
and conclude each chapter with a recap worthy of fifth-graders. In
aiming at the universal—to satisfy the commonest denominator of human
thinking and behavior—most of these books miss all of the originality, the
humor, the serendipity, the grace, the exceptions to the rule, the idiosyncrasies
that mold the way of art.
So if I don’t believe in books about creativity, why am I writing one?
Although the original idea for this book was not mine—it came from the
outside—its entire content comes directly from inside, from a life I have
spent creating. I hope that my unconventional, insubordinate process of
creativity will offer insight for anyone struggling to achieve his or her
Born into the confines of rigid parenting, repressive schooling and the
 narrow-mindedness of a country busy manufacturing 365 types of cheeses,
quite early I started to rebel against authority. I was not very good at following.
I had to distance myself from the norm, to venture along solitary paths,
to teach myself.
At six, I taught myself magic; at fourteen, juggling; at sixteen, wire-walking.
In the process, I was thrown out of five different schools. Regardless, I would
never have let my schooling get in the way of my education.
Observation was my conduit to knowledge, intuition my source of power.
I spent my days taking things apart and rebuilding them; not asking how to
do something, but finding out; hiding from people in order to stare at them,
noting how they dress, talk, act, and noticing their mistakes . . .
As a teenager I spent considerable time at the circus and vaudeville theater,
witnessing the best acts in the world—thereby setting my artistic standards
at an unusually high level. I would compare the overall effect different performances
had on me and decide who was the best dancer, the best ventriloquist,
the best stand-up comic. I would try on their styles and attempt their
routines. Ha-ha! Yet trial and error provided results.
All of this trying and failing and watching and trying again bred in me an
arrogant, proud and aggressive determination. Each discovery, no matter how
naive, had to be jealously hidden from the rest of the world. Each victory felt
like a stolen jewel. I fell into a natural state of intellectual self-defense. Let
me explain.
Always trying my best, I became guilty of pursuing perfection—imagine
Always working relentlessly, I became obstinate—and almost felt guilty
about it.
To protect what triggered my creativity, I became secretive.
Anxious about being discovered, fearful of being caught, I ended up always
on the lookout.
At the outset of most projects, busy battling against overwhelming odds, I
came to believe the entire world was against me.
This was a reflection of reality as well as the frame of mind I needed to
be at my most creative. It coated my character with an outlaw sheen. And
I’m sure that with my constant sneaking, my tiptoeing, my way of approaching
people inconspicuously from behind to spy on them or surprise them, I
must have looked like a criminal, and certainly others must have felt I was
one. And so I was not surprised the world around me reacted with suspicion
and mistrust!
Before I had reached eighteen, I had rewritten the Book of Ethics that had
been forced on me earlier, and before I knew it, I had acquired the mind of
a criminal.
My attitude as an artist grew out of the realization I’d arrived at from an
early age: that my intellectual engagement, my imaginative freedom, had a
price, that of the forbidden. Whatever I decided to do, it was not allowed!
“Creativity is illegal” became my byword.
The creator must be an outlaw.
Not a criminal outlaw, but rather a poet who cultivates intellectual rebellion.
The difference between a bank job and an illegal high-wire walk is paramount:
the aerial crossing does not steal anything; it offers an ephemeral gift,
one that delights and inspires.
Despite my outlaw approach—or because of it—a network of personal creative
principles imperceptibly emerged. Lawlessness doesn’t mean lack of
method: in fact, the outlaw I became needed method all the more, because
I was swimming alone to the island of my dreams.
With the urgency of those who believe life is short, I found multiple ways of
getting things done, I solved problems intuitively, and by refusing failure, I
was able to achieve the impossible.
I dedicated myself to my arts, bringing to bear a fanatic attention to detail and
little respect for the established values of competition, money or social status.
For my first major high-wire walks—at Notre Dame, the Sydney Harbor
Bridge and the World Trade Center—Oops!—I forgot to ask permission. And
after, I certainly did not seek forgiveness.
Over the years, I went on refining a highly personal creative process. I kept
drawing on my autodidactic elasticity, all the time knowing that I was never
alone in my progress: mentors, friends and illustrious artists in a wide range
of creative fields guided me and opened doors. They were masters of one
craft, however, and I was . . . a defiant Renaissance Boy wanting to do it all!
One day I was asked to share my creative process with others in the form of a
lecture. I concocted a lively mixture of physical demonstrations, experiments
with props, audience participation, storytelling, live drawings, quizzes and even
magic tricks; and I took pleasure in revealing some of my creative secrets.
Word of my lectures spread and I was encouraged to do more.
My audience grew to be quite diverse: aspiring wire-walkers, Nobel Prize
winners, clergymen; millionaires whose focus lacked focus and businessmen
striving to become millionaires; young entrepreneurs, people seeking a direction
in life, curious souls, and students of all sorts of subjects.
My audiences seemed to identify with my outlaw attitude, to be inspired by
my propensity for venturing far off the beaten path. They asked me to elaborate
on my “grammar of creativity,” and even the tech geeks I spoke to were
hungry for more of this self-confessed Luddite’s primer on self-teaching and
Eventually I distilled my audience’s favorite topics into a one-man show,
WIRELESS! Philippe Petit Down to Earth. And I began to see that despite my
aversion to guides to the creative process, I really did have the makings of a
But not a book about creativity.
A book about my creativity.
So think of this book as a conspiracy—or, if you will, a manifesto. And
think of yourself, dear reader, as an accomplice who is invited to explore your
own field of intellectual or artistic “crime.”
See this book not as a blueprint for any specific crime but as a series of postcards
from the labyrinths I build (to confuse those chasing me), the tunnels I
dig (to escape), the dams I erect (to delay the invasion of the elements). Accept
my invitation to become my student, my partner, in crime. Together
we’ll take chances and yet leave nothing to chance. We’ll question the questions,
yet arrive at definitive principles. We’ll be stubbornly focused, yet curious
about everything.
I hope this book will provide guidance for your imagination. That it will
help you to recognize all sorts of obstacles, in order to circumvent them, or—
if need be—make them vanish. That it will reveal to you the surest way to
bring your “criminal intentions” from inspiration to full-fledged execution—
to “coup.” And that along the way, it imparts what I have discovered about
the benefits of passion, tenacity, intuition, misdirection, daily practice, secrets,
mistakes, surprises and believing in miracles.
Most of all, I fervently wish it will remind you of the qualities hidden inside
all of us, that we are rarely encouraged to recognize but that are essential to
make our dreams come true, to plan, design and construct a wondrous life.
I wish you the most adventurous journey, epic pursuit and successful escape.
Vehemently yours,
Philippe Petit
10 Rue Laplace, Paris
October 6, 2012*
--This text refers to the paperback edition.


"Gleeful...Anyone involved in the performing arts will find Creativity useful. [A] kaleidoscopic richly insightful as it is vaingloriously irreverent. Read it. Use it to cross whatever tightropes you happen to be perched on."

-- "Minneapolis Star Tribune" --This text refers to the audioCD edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00G3L6M9S
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Riverhead Books (May 15, 2014)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ May 15, 2014
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 11788 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 216 pages
  • Lending ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.8 out of 5 stars 59 ratings

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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5
59 global ratings

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Reviewed in the United States on May 15, 2014
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Top reviews from other countries

5.0 out of 5 stars The Creativity Bible...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 29, 2014
7 people found this helpful
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5.0 out of 5 stars What is my dream?
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 8, 2016
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5.0 out of 5 stars What is my dream?
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 8, 2016
I rewatched the documentary about Philippe's walk across the twin towers and was memorised. This coincided with the beauty and simplicity of making my first knot, as below and I then discover Phillippe has written a book about knots also. Inspirational! This book and the writer opens your mind. Like children we have to find and rekindle the creative spark and combine this with focus to manifest our dreams against the odds and also all the every day drudgery that gets in the way. As on the tightrope, its all about balance.
Thank you Phillippe, I know where you are coming from & hope by some magic you get to see this. Stephanie.
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3 people found this helpful
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended for creative people!
Reviewed in India on February 13, 2016
Dr. Nitin Chavan
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Reviewed in India on December 16, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you very much for sharing your amazing talent and intelligence
Reviewed in Canada on April 19, 2016
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