Is there anything more frustrating than being in a creative slump? Staring for what feels like hours on end at your computer, notebook, sewing machine, camera, canvas, or whatever your creative outlet is with no progress. Truth be told, you are probably being too hard on yourself and you simply need time for inspiration to strike. But if you are looking to speed up the process, consider reading a book designed to jumpstart your creativity. Unless you received an arts education, creativity was probably not on the curriculum at your school, but it is a valuable part of work and play.
Consider these books your textbooks for creativity.
1. Big Magic
You likely remember Elizabeth Gilbert’s wildly successful memoir Eat, Pray, Love where after a divorce and subsequent failed relationship, Gilbert travels the world and finds happiness. Now, with the same honesty and thoughtfulness, Gilbert shares her generative process, wisdom, and perspective about creativity in her new book Big Magic: Creative Living Without Fear.
Gilbert offers her insight into inspiration and asks readers to embrace curiosity and let go of needless suffering. Her writing is cheerful, yet pragmatic as she discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits needed to live our most creative lives. Readers are instructed to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us.
This book is not aimed at writers, but at anyone looking to be creative, address challenges at work, fulfill a long awaited dream, or infuse life with mindfulness and passion.
Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All is for readers who don’t necessarily consider themselves creative and also for those who feel creative, but are in a lull. Oftentimes people label themselves as either creative or not, but this book dispels that notion; it provides a plan of action to change that way of thinking.
Author David and Tom Kelley take their collective knowledge from their design firm IDEO to teach readers how to access latent creativity and enhance careers. They outline strategies to kick-start inspiration such as daydreaming or keeping a “bug list” to track inconveniences in your daily life and think of possible solutions. There are also tips for business owners or managers looking to help unleash employees’ creativity such as making a community chalkboard and using proactive speech patterns.
Most importantly you will be taught to accept failure and to understand how to regain the confidence to try again.
If you have ever come up with a great idea only to give up on it because you realize it’s been done before, this book is for you! In Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things No One Told You About Being Creative, writer and artist Austin Kleon shares comforting truths about creativity such as the idea that nothing is original so you should embrace influence, collect ideas, and remix and re-imagine to discover your own path.
Kleon believes you should follow the path your interests lead you while being smart, staying out of debt, and taking the risk of being boring in order to fuel your creative side. The practicality of this book makes it less intimidating and allows you to comfortably take steps towards a more creative life.
When January first rolls around, many of us make resolutions around habits. Habits such as: exercise every other day, practice a language biweekly, meditate every night before bed. It is easy to think of concrete activities when looking for good habits to form, but more abstract ones like creativity can be formed too.
The Creative Habit: Learn it and Live it for Life teaches that in order to make creativity part of your life you must make it a habit; it is the product of preparation and effort and is within reach of us all. Twyla Tharp a former dancer, choreographer and now author, provides 32 practical exercises based off lessons she has learned throughout her career. The exercises are simple and varied with lessons such as “Build a Bridge to the Next Day,” where she shows you how to clean the clutter from your mind overnight.
The book will lead you through the steps of coming up with ideas, discovering what your work will be, getting out of ruts, and finding consistent productivity.
Is your career at the root of your creative problems? Artist Elle Luna’s now famous Medium essay inspired The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion which shares her journey of finding her true calling and encourages readers to find theirs. Luna’s thesis is essentially that many of us are standing at the crossroads of “should” and “must.” “Should” is what we feel we ought to be doing, or what is expected of us. “Must” is the thing we dream of doing, our heart’s desire.
Through her own story, a series of activities, quotes, and illustrations, Luna provides a roadmap (of sorts) to finding what you truly want out of life and how to achieve it. The resolution offered is not an unrealistic one. Luna does not recommend quitting your job to pursue your creative passion, but she does help you realize that you can use practical efforts to achieve a dream. Want to make your own furniture? Luna would say you “should” have a steady job so you can afford a home with a studio large enough for woodworking equipment.
The book is a quick read, but the stunning illustrations and colors will have you flipping through whenever you need a reminder of what your “must” is.