Rick Rubin on submerging in great works

The benefits may surprise you

Jim Esch
3 min readJun 10, 2023


I’ve been reading The Creative Act: A Way of Being, a set of meditations on the creative process by Rick Rubin, the famed record producer. I received the book as a kind gift from a friend and have been lapping it up like a thirsty dog.

The Creative Act

In one of the early chapters titled “Submerge (The Great Works),” Rubin speaks of the need for “broadening our practice of awareness” as a choice fueled by a hunger to consume beautiful things that help us feel more deeply.

We’re drawn to greatness like plants angling towards sunlight. One pathway towards this end is to submerge oneself in the canon (books, cinema, art, music, architecture, etc.).

Rubin rightly admits that the canon is constantly shapeshifting. This is a good thing. It’s not a monolithic bourgeois bucket list. Nevertheless exposure to great works as they have been generally defined in our cultural moment “opens doors of possibility.”

As we seek to broaden our creative awareness, so we can see more possibilities for art, he suggests a habit shift that makes a lot of sense to me:

Instead of reading the news feed each day, why not try reading classics every day for a year and watch what happens.