10 Must-Read Books for Creatives

by Gina Clark

assorted books on wooden table books for creatives
Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

10 Must-Read Books for Creatives

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It’s summertime in the northern hemisphere and living is easy. COVID restrictions are slowly lifting and we have the good fortune to be renting a boat-access-only cottage for the month of July. No internet, no tv. 

There will still be cell service and we plan on spending a few days each week at our house – but, still! I’m looking so forward to no road noise and no housework beckoning me.

Amid watching the kids jump off the dock, the dog submarine under the water (apparently this is an Australian Shepherd thing – they blow bubbles), and listening to the loons in the evening, I plan to read.  A lot. 

I tend to read more non-fiction than fiction lately, but I have a couple of great books on tap, including Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (haven’t watched the series yet). The other one is The Rose Code by Kate Quinn.  It’s about three female code-breakers at Bletchley Park during World War II. It’s supposed to be “gripping”.

What better time than now to share with you my list of 10 must-read books for creatives  I’ve read and re-read all of them.

1. The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron

There’s a reason why The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is a classic. It’s one of those books you will read again, and again, and again, and get something different out of it each time. Don’t skip the exercises in each chapter. That’s where the gold is. You will learn a lot about yourself by reading this book. Cameron also has books for the more seasoned creative that I highly recommend – Walking in This World & Finding Water.

2. The War of Art – Steven Pressfield

I love the no-nonsense git ‘er done tone of Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. For Pressfield, successfully creating art is about discipline and outsmarting creativity’s mortal enemy – resistance. The chapters are bite-sized and to the point. If you’re looking for some tough love to get you moving again, this is the book you need.

3. The Nine Modern Day Muses (And a Bodyguard) – Jill Badonsky

Jill Badonsky is my creative mentor and I love her book The Nine Modern Day Muses (And a Bodyguard): Ten Guides to Creative Inspiration. This book shows us how to invoke 10 powerful creativity principles personified in the form of muses. There’s Albert, the muse of imagination and innovation; Spills, the muse of practice, process, and imperfection; Audacity, the muse of courage and uninhibited uniqueness; and 7 more. This book is intended to bring playfulness back into creativity and poke a little fun at your creative blocks so you can move through them with ease.

4. Atomic Habits – James Clear

I’m a big fan of James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. The tagline is “Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results” which is the exact principle I bring to my coaching clients. Clear argues that if we can develop poor habits, we can certainly develop good ones. What makes his arguments so compelling is the scientific research that he uses to back each suggestion. He asks readers to consider if they did something 1% better every day where would they be in a year? Habit is the cornerstone of creativity, so this is a must-read.

5. Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is a book about writing, but the lessons apply to any creative pursuit. Lamott writes like your favourite aunt, who happens to be a writer, dishing on her creative foibles and life lessons. This book is warm, hilarious, and inspiring. Lamott provides insight into her own process and systems. She’s equally brilliant and funny and this is just a damn good book.

6. Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert muses about the mystery of creativity while at the same time providing solid advice about how to live a more creative life. Gilbert encourages us to step into our power and give ourselves permission to be creative. The book moves through six themes: Courage; Enchantment; Permission; Persistence; Trust; and, Divinity. Each section features Gilbert’s own experiences woven throughout as stories in just the way a storyteller should.

7. The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle was the book that changed it all for me. Before I read this book I had no idea I could actually redirect my thoughts. Or, the amount of time I spent thinking about the past or the future, instead of being in the NOW. Tolle’s book is a powerful tool to help shift your perspective and start living every minute, fully and completely. It’s on the list of books for creatives because that’s exactly what creativity is – being in the present moment fully and completely.

8. The Practice – Seth Godin

The Practice by Seth Godin is another no-nonsense book that directs us to drop our excuses and just do the work. The preface simply states: The magic of the creative process is that there is no magic. Godin wants us to sit down and get to it, He warns of sacrificing our work to fear and how to recognize and slay it. Or, at least work through it. This book will sit by my bedside for a long time to come.

9. One Small Step Can Change Your Life – Dr. Robert Maurer

Like the suggestions inside, One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Dr. Robert Maurer is tiny but mighty. Dr. Maurer introduces us to the ancient philosophy of kaizen and applies it to modern life: using very small steps to improve a habit, process, or product; or, using very small moments to inspire products and inventions. Dr. Maurer has spent his career using kaizen principles to help people move through obstacles in their lives. And, you guessed it, it works wonders on creative obstacles as well.

10. Wired to Create – Scott Barry Kaufman & Carolyn Gregoire

Scott Barry Kaufman’s and Carolyn Gregoire’s Wired to Create explores ten things that highly creative people do differently, all backed by research and science. After a brief overview of the history of scientific thinking about creativity, the book delves into modern-day findings. Daydreaming, solitude, and turning adversity into an advantage all made the list. My left-brained peeps, this one is for you.

That’s my list of 10 must-read books for creatives. I hope it invites you to try a new book or inspires you to reread an old favourite.

Happy Creating!

Looking for more creative tips? Check out:

How to Approach Creativity Like a Scientist: Here are 4 Essential Ways

Figure Out Your Next Small Step with This Simple Trick

Unlock Your Hidden Creativity: Start Today!

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