Uncommon Genius

UNCOMMON GENIUS:  How Great Ideas Are Born
(Viking, 1990; Penguin, 1991, 2001)

Uncommon Genius is a narrative look at how creative work happens. It is based on lively and personal conversations with forty winners of the coveted MacArthur Prize, or so-called “genius award.”

From interviews with artists, poets, writers, historians, social scientists, educators, a clown, an opera director, and others in fields as diverse as film making, carpentry, medicine, and anthropology, the author assembles a picture of how a creative person works and how and where and when their best bursts of creativity might happen.

Blending conversation, theory, and examples from literature and life, this absorbing, thought provoking book provides a clue at least as to how to encourage one’s own creative spark in life — the very question she set out to answer.

“I have searched for years for an explanation of the creative process. . . . Buy this book. It’ll help you attain faster greater creativity in everything you do.”  — Guy Kawasaki

“A thoroughly enjoyable, often enlightening, extremely readable look at creativity”  — Detroit Free Press

“Lively, entertaining interviews provide rare, down-to-earth glimpses of uncommon people.”  — Self

“An anecdotal stroll through the gardens of creativity . . . of interest to the general reader looking for a general outline of greatness.”  — Kirkus Review

“Shekerjian . . . proves to be an effective interviewer and catalyst.”   — Publisher’s Weekly

“Uncommon Genius makes for an extremely readable starting point.”  –The New York Times, Book Review

“The reader will find here many useful bits and pieces of wisdom and practical advice . . . a delightful work.”
— The Armenian Reporter International: Book Review




This project was born from a line in the newspaper. “Think of it,” was the tease. “You’re at home minding you own business when the phone rings. ‘You don’t know me,’ a voice says, ‘but I’m calling to congratulate you. In recognition and encouragement of your creative capabilities, you have just been awarded a prize in the six-figure range to be paid out over the next five years with absolutely no strings attached.’  ~  Excerpt,  Introduction.

Photo by Matt Hogan.
Leave a comment


  1. I was delighted to find your blog. I recently attended a Writer’s Studio workshop in Colorado. My story had won first place in their fiction contest, and after I did a reading at the opening of the workshop, a woman sat down with me during the coffee break.
    She shared specifics from UNCOMMON GENIUS and connected it to “second, ongoing thoughts” about expanding my story and being open to possibilities.
    Thank you.

    • admin

       /  May 18, 2012

      Hello Marylin. Congratulations on your fiction! Wonderful and affirming for you, I’m sure. I’m glad UNCOMMON GENIUS has been of use to you. Thank you very much for writing. It’s kind of you to have taken the time and I appreciate your interest!

  1. How to Find your Niche | soul of a word
  2. How to think your own stupid thoughts « Thinking from here to there

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Pages

  • Categories

  • Archives