What I'm Reading: "Harness Your Creativity" by Nadia Tabbara

I’d heard about writer and creativity coach Nadia Tabbara some time ago. Anyone in Beirut who dabbles in writing has probably come across her name, as she heads a space called FADE IN: to educate aspiring writers on the creative process. Beyond that, Nadia is a professional screenwriter who’s worked on famous Hollywood productions including “Step Up 3D” and “The Adjustment Bureau.”

What I didn’t know is that Nadia and I share a bit in common, namely our American upbringing. In fact, we were both denizens of Boston, though not contemporaneously. She graduated from Emerson College in 2005; I, from MIT, in 2009. We both made the dramatic decision to move to Lebanon in 2011, citing a raw hunger to experience our ancestral home.

In her new book Harness Your Creativity, published last month by Turning Point Books, Nadia articulates that yearning ever so eloquently: “A big part of the creative process is learning how to follow a whisper until it turns into a thought, then an idea, and finally a plan. So there I was, a couple of suitcases and reverse-culture shock. I engaged my creative skills to cope with my new surroundings.”

Nadia, I think I’ll borrow your words whenever (and it’s frequent!) I’m bombarded with that nagging, mockery-laced question of “what brings you here?”

Nadia Tabbara's Harness Your Creativity

Back to the book, which I knew I had to have as soon as I discovered its existence. It’s a 100-page, easy-reading manual about how to nurture your capacity for creativity. We’re all born with it, she argues. We just need to acquire the tools to employ that creativity in a productive and self-serving manner.

The book is divided into four sections: Discovery, Knowledge, Belief, and Action. Each section is subdivided into two chapters. There are several written exercises to habituate your mind to self-expression. What I love is how effortlessly it all reads, which goes to show just how much a labor of love this was for Nadia. Expect to set aside two undisturbed hours to leaf through her paperback.

Author Nadia at her book launch (photo source: https://www.instagram.com/hycreativity

Here are some novel ideas I found refreshingly inspiring:

Think of the brain as two hemispheres representing the creative child and the logical adult. A child is playful and lets his imagination steer him. An adult, contrarily, reasons and analyzes; shuns failure and thus hates mistakes; and is often painfully practical. It’s important to subdue the adult in us and let the child take the reins, especially when trying to tap one's creativity.

Traditional IQ-based intelligence plays only a minor role in sparking creativity. It’s more about “emotional, intellectual, and moral capabilities” evidenced in personality and character. Creative folk are generally open to life and new adventures. They are introspective about their place in the universe. Observation brews inspiration. So allow yourself to observe abundantly, especially people and their interactions with one another. Will yourself to wonder.

If you can visualize it, it’s more likely to happen. Conjure up a hurdle in your head: the stretch leading up to it, the actual feat of overcoming it, and the grand feeling of success you experience once it’s in your rearview mirror. Imagine toasting to that success and how it would make you feel. Once you’ve formulated a mental taste and image, you’ve practically laid it all out in front of you. Now just plug and chug.

What the heck does “think outside the box” really mean? Isn’t that metaphor used and abused in almost every application? Discard that phrase from your lexicon altogether, and just focus on solving. Back in the 1970s, a psychologist proved that the concept of thinking outside the box negates the process of problem-solving and idea-building. You need training to come up with creative solutions and original ideas. As long as you’re honest with yourself about your ideas, you’ll be original, so never worry about the box and its boundaries. Oh, and there’s nothing wrong with cliché. We’re all humans, and we all connect in the same ways. Our truths are universal, which is why we often see repeating plot lines and familiar dialogue in Hollywood films. “Great minds think alike” sums it up best.

Ultimately, Harness Your Creativity is an enjoyable self-help guidebook beautifully suited for our fast-paced lives. Nadia is relevant and concise, helping the reader to carve that core of creativity cached somewhere deep down in there. Simply suppress the fear and get to grinding systematically and persistently.

Harness Your Creativity by Nadia Tabbara is available at Dar Bistro & Books (Hamra), Librairie Antoine, Virgin Megastore, and Way In (Hamra).


  1. The brain metaphor is similar to Daniel Kahneman's personalities 1 and 2. It will be interesting to read Mz Nadia's book. Being multicultural brings a whole heap of personality traits that if used properly will lead to magical results !!


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