52 Projects: Random Acts of Everyday Creativity.
By Jeffrey Yamaguchi
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
There’s something about the thrill of creativity—seeing something through from idea to execution. The feeling of purpose that comes from having a project to work on, that you’ve got something worthwhile to spend your time and energy on, beyond the normal nine-to-five and day to day routine. In that vein, Jeffrey Yamaguchi’s 52 Projects is packed with enough ideas and inspiration to last a long long time.
The genesis of the book began with Yamaguchi’s own quest to compile 52 projects that he either completed or intended to complete on his website, 52projects.com, natch. The intense personal nature of his readers’ feedback inspired whatsyourproject.com, and later this book, 52 Projects: Random Acts of Everyday Creativity.
Opening with the author’s thoughts and commentary on the importance and purpose of projects in his life, and by extension, what benefits working on a project can bring to your life, the majority of the book is taken up by his suggested projects. These aren’t highly technical plans, with lists of necessary tools and materials— they’re surprisingly low-tech; the most you’ll probably need is to dust off the camera, tape recorder, or video camera. Many of these projects are appropriate for groups, families, or gift-giving ideas. With a warm and easy-going tone, it’s clear that Yamaguchi has fun with his projects, and he wants you to have fun, too.
A couple of my favorites include making a key lime pie, inviting friends over, and photographing everyone enjoying it. Then take the photos, a few limes, and your pie recipe, box it all up and mail it to a friend. If your friends aren’t into pie, try the “Shotgun a Beer” one— buy a 12-pack of the stuff you used to drink in college and mail a can to all your old college friends, with instructions to drink it on the same day at the same time. (Unfortunately—or fortunately?—I think most of my friends probably fall into the pie-eating category more than the beer-drinking category.)
Oftentimes, Yamaguchi’s projects are annotated with a brief recollection of his own experience with this project. There are also ample suggestions for variations on many projects, plus more ideas scattered throughout the margins of the book. With additional advice on projects as gifts, and the importance of writing things down, plus how to make time for doing projects, and a list of 52 resources for inspiration, Yamaguchi’s book is a well-rounded and useful tool for people who are creative types, or who want to be. What’s especially nice is that with far-flung family and friends so common, many of these projects that involve mailing packages, photos, or letters to others are a fun and memorable way to bridge that gap.
There’s a lot of inspiration here—for creative people in general, and writers in particular. One of Yamaguchi’s suggestions, to write a letter, leave it unsigned and place it in the leaves of a library book stirred my imagination and spawned a short story. Many of the projects make excellent writing prompts: Write a one-minute autobiography; List the years you’ve been alive and write down a memory from each year.
The easy-to-browse organization of the book makes every project accessible, and wide margins leave lots of room for scribbling your own notes and ideas. The slim, pocket-sized paperback has certainly earned a place on my desk, whether for rainy day activities for the kids or a solution to writer’s block.
Amy Brozio-Andrews is a freelance writer and book reviewer. She brings more than five years’ experience as a readers’ advisory librarian to her work, which is regularly published by Library Journal, The Imperfect Parent, and Absolute Write. Her reviews have also been published by The Absinthe Literary Review, ForeWord Magazine, January Magazine, and Melt Magazine. You can find her at www.amyba.com.