Sometimes you and the muse are on the same page, and sometimes you’re not. For when you’re not, I’ve got some great books for creatives to share with you.

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Books for Creatives

Original photo byAlex Holyoake

Before we get too far into this post, I just want to state for the record that I really hate using the word “creative” as a noun, even though I did it in the title. But here we are in the year of our Lord 2018, and folks regularly use that word that way. It’s nowhere near as irritating as when folks say “impactful,” but I’ll save that rant for another time. Probably for my Instagram stories. (If you like off-brand content, pure nonsense, and a snoring dog, my Insta stories are a great place for you. Follow me.)

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Anyway, one of my favorite things to do is to read something that fills that proverbial well. When it comes to fiction writing, I can definitely consume a good story and feel raring to go. But, I also like to add some nonfiction books to the mix to get me in the right headspace for creating. It’s one thing to get inspired by ideas, but sometimes you need an extra little push to take that inspiration, and make something happen.

(By the way, if you mix these books for creatives with the habit building books I mentioned last month, IMAGINE THE ARTISTIC OUTPUT.)

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Books for Creatives

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
It’s really easy to feel down on yourself when you’re trying to create art but it feels like everything has already been done. This book acknowledges that there’s nothing new under the sun, and teaches you how to use that to your advantage. If you’re looking for some exercises and examples of how to steal like an artist, this is the book for you.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield
If you’re the type of artist that can’t get out of their own head, buy this book immediately. Seriously. Do it. For some writers, the biggest battle to getting words on the page is just telling their inner critic to back off for a bit. This book is all about creative discipline, and how you can achieve it when you spend most of your time fighting against yourself.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
I’m sure you knew this was going to be on the list. It’s one of the few books I keep coming back to in my current frame of mind (second adolescence/creative anarchy/rebuilding year) and it has so many good points that I need to remember. I think Gilbert has good advice when it comes to demanding money from your art, and how you have to show up for your art every single day. Also, if you haven’t seen her TED Talk yet, you’re life is meaningless.

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Letters to a Young Poet by Rainier Maria Rilke
Is it terribly nerdy to admit that I have a copy of this book from when I was like 19, and it’s highlighted and absolutely bursting at the seams with marginalia? No? Okay good. See, that’s why we’re friends. I think this is one of those things that has to hit you at the right time, otherwise, it just won’t feel genuine. And when I was 19, it hit me right. (It’s worth noting that it’s currently hitting me right at the age of 32.) I think this book is good for getting you in that artist headspace — for walking the walk of that talk you’ve been talking. And let’s be real. Whoopi Goldberg gave it to Lauryn Hill in Sister Act 2, and I can’t think of a better literary endorsement.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull
I recommend this book for anyone who is a writer trying to build an empire. This book focuses a lot on building a creative culture and leading teams of creatives. And if you feel that’s not relevant to your particular journey, it doesn’t even matter because you know you straight up want to get behind the scenes at Pixar. (This book will take you there.)

What Books for Creatives Do You Recommend?

What books get you in the right headspace for making art? Is there a book that you’d recommend to writers? Do you like using “creative” as a noun? Does the word “impactful” make you grind your teeth too?

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10 Responses

  1. Will definitely check out Big Magic. I adore Elizabeth Gilbert. No recommendations really, except that good staple, Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. She’s the voice in my head when I pretend to be a writer.

  2. I thought Kleon’s book was a snooze and an easy way to repackage a blog. I do love Big Magic and The War of Art, though!

  3. I’ve read Big Magic and the War of Art. Love them both. The others I’ll look into when I have a chance. Have you read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott? After seeing it from someone I follow on IG I decided to read it again, especially since it’s been a good 4-5 years.

  4. The Right to Write is an old-school version of Big Magic from the queen of creativity, Julia Cameron. Plus, it has little assignments that are helpful for those of us who need not just inspiration, but a nudge. (Julia is the originator of The Artist Way).

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