Side By Side: No creative artist is an island

By Diane Cole

September/October 2014

Review of Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs

By Joshua Wolf Shenk
Houghton Mifflin. 368 pages.
ISBN: 9780544031593

Conventional wisdom favors what might be called the Lone Ranger theory of genius: a model of creativity that values individuals working in solitude, with no credit given to collaborators or helpers. This theory’s main flaw is obvious: without his ready-to-the-rescue partner, Tonto, watching over him behind the scenes, the Lone Ranger would never have made it through a single episode.

Images of this fictional duo kept coming to mind as I read Joshua Wolf Shenk’s provocative and engaging study of creative partnerships, Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs. Although Shenk never specifically mentions the Lone Ranger–Tonto team, it exemplifies the kind of intuitive interplay present in many of the real-life examples Shenk does discuss.

Perhaps paradoxically, Shenk’s decision to investigate the psychological factors that enable two distinctly different people to click as a successful, creative team derived from his own sense of loneliness as a writer. But was he himself just a team of one? By the end of his book, he comes to the conclusion that for all the time he spent alone writing in a room, he’d come to depend on his editor for guidance and inspiration. For Shenk, no creative artist is an island. Rather, creative duos…

Already have an account linked to your magazine subscription? Log in now to continue reading this article.

(Need help? Click here or contact us to ask a question.)

Not currently a subscriber? Subscribe Today to read the rest of this article!

Previous: Point of View

Read 4691 times
Comments - (existing users please login first)
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *