Want a hit of inspiration that will help you unleash your creative beast? These 13 books that will help you do just that.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Oh, Elizabeth Gilbert, let’s run away together! You’ve loved her since she wrote Eat, Pray, Love and you’ll love her even more after reading this book. Gilbert says, “Creativity is a crushing chore and a glorious mystery. The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you.” I love that. This book is both inspiring and pragmatic, with advice on habit-forming and getting started. If you dig it, check out her Magic Lessons podcast, too. It’s one of my favs.
Let the Elephants Run: Unlock Your Creativity and Change Everything
David Usher was my very first rock star crush, and he’s still killin’ it, creatively. This book is all about process, blending philosophical musings and some practical exercises to experiment with. Usher likes to think of creativity at something that is repeatable and transferable. He says, “You are the Costco of creativity. Forget about quality. You need to fill the aisles with stuff. I like that. First, make. Second, edit.
The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life
You know that feeling when you just have to devour a book in big hungry gulps? You want to take your time and savor it, but you can’t because it’s just too good, so you end up mainlining it? Yeah. THAT. All kinds of that. Tharp says creativity is about developing good habits. Not sexy, but true. She offers up 32 exercises to get your creative juices flowing. And dammit if the writing isn’t mind-blowingly beautiful to boot.
The Artists Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
This is such a classic. And for good reason. Written more than 20 years ago, it’s still incredibly relevant. The Artist’s Way is a 12-week self-study course to inspire your creativity and help you become your truest creative self. Cameron takes a more spiritual approach than most, and every chapter includes homework and a “check-in”, with questions for reflection. If you want structure and self-reflection, this is your book.
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
You could easily read this book all in one sitting, but I bet you’ll be interrupted by an overwhelming urge to make something while reading it. It is short, punchy, brilliant, beautiful, and will absolutely get you thinking differently about creativity. Some of Kleon’s advice: don’t wait until you know who you are to get started; side projects and hobbies are important; use your hands; and write the book you want to read. Pure gold.
Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered
This is the follow-up to Steal Like an Artist. It’s a rally cry for promoting your own work instead of waiting to be discovered – “getting found by being findable”. Kleon urges creatives to share something every day, make your own work, tell good stories, be okay with being amateur, sell out (in a good way), share your trade secrets, and get over the starving artist thing.
Ignore Everybody: And 39 Other Keys to Creativity
Oh, how I love this book! MacLeod is a truth-telling rule-breaker who wants you to get out of your comfort zone. He says what needs to be said to push you juuuuust the right amount. Bite-sized chapters are pithy, thoughtful, irreverent, and come with a clever/funny/wise/ cartoon or two. MacLeod is first and foremost a cartoonist, but his writing will grab you and inspire you to shake things up.
The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help
This is a memoir about one woman’s creative journey. And, WOW, what a journey. Palmer does not hold back. She lays her guts out for all to see, and it’s a thing of beauty. She shares stories from her days performing as a living statue in a wedding dress, stories about her life as a rock star, stories about her relationships, and everything in-between. The thread that runs through this book is the importance of asking for help – and the vulnerability and strength it takes to do so.
The Usborne Book of Drawing, Doodling and Colouring
Fiona Watt – Designed and Illustrated by Erica Harrison and Katie Lovell
I’m not a visual artist and I don’t pretend to be, but I LOVE doodling and colouring. I kind of zone out when it’s just me and my doodle books, which is awesome for creativity. I’ll be scribbling away at a picture of robots or bumblebees and then, BOOM, a great business idea hits me from out of left field. Who knew?! Usborne has a whole line of doodle and colouring books, but this one is my fav.
Wreck this Journal
This is such a wonderfully wacky, one-of-a-kind book. To spark your creativity, Smith invites you to use the pages of her book to paste leaves, do pencil rubbings, scribble recklessly, crumple pages, poke holes in the paper, collect fruit stickers, make art with office supplies, sew pages, paste newspaper clippings, make prints from cut vegetables, trace your hands, write four-letter words, and much, MUCH more. You’ll absolutely destroy this book by the time you’re done with it, but that’s the point. Want to see one woman’s epic journey with this book? Watch this.
Art Before Breakfast: A Zillion Ways to Be More Creative No Matter How Busy You Are
Ever daydream about drawing or painting, but then your inner critic says, Who the hell do you think you are? You’re not an artist. Plus, you don’t have time for that! If so, this is your book. Gregory wants to encourage you to play. His book is full of cool, easy exercises for true beginners, lots of ideas for what to draw, and advice on choosing simple materials to work with.
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
This book is about resistance – that paralyzing stopper of dreams that never get started in the first place. Pressfield says we tend to resist the things we want the most because the stakes are so damn high. That sure rings true to me. Pressfield manages to make a book about fear and creative self-sabotage funny and inspiring – not an easy task. I mainlined this book all in one sitting. I bet you will, too.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Anne Lamott is my new imaginary BFF. Her writing is hilarious and she discusses the neuroses of writers with precision. On more than one occasion I found myself thinking, get out of my head, woman! Her book offers advice on process, writing routines, revision, and more, but the biggest gem in this book is an early chapter titled, Shitty First Drafts. Lamott underscores the importance of moving beyond paralysis by just getting something, anything down on the page, even if it sucks at first. I’ll drink to that!