There’s this expectation or stereotype (sometimes trope) of creatives finding everything they need within themselves to create their artwork.
I find that to be complete bullshit. Professionals in most fields have to find ways to grow, and a creative must as well. In addition, a creative usually has to grit their teeth and get through “the sludge walk” that creative work demands.
It isn’t all beautiful brainstorm sessions, sketching and mad dashes around a studio.
It takes a lot of grit and perseverance to follow the muse, so below, I’ve shared books that have helped me in my creative pursuits. As with all personal development, I encourage you to take what works! If something doesn’t ~resonate~ with you, leave it! Be a critical and thoughtful consumer.
You may also find it helpful to buy these books on audio, so that you can listen while doing The Work. This is a bit more difficult for writers, but you can ~develop~ yourself while cleaning your bathroom, driving in your car, etc. For myself, I’v’e found that a lot of the personal development books I buy on recommendation sit in a char, in my sewing room, glowering in their judgement of me.
That’s not cute.
Let’s get going!
Note: I do use affiliate links on my blog posts, which allows me to write more! If something I write encourages you to buy a book, support the work and buy it using these links.
Y’all, if Jen Sincero announced she was Jesus tomorrow, I’d sign up to be her apostle. Something I have always struggled with, in the personal development realm, is this poor-shaming that underlies a lot of what we talk about.
Jen Sincero doesn’t pull that shit. In fact, she shares her own broke stories, and then how she got over herself to start making things happen. The idea that you have to be a broke creative to be a “REAL CREATIVE” is bullshit, and Jen (we’re on a first-name basis), takes you through each one. She is also hilarious and joyful, something we could all use.
She points out that we live in an abundant AF universe, and one person’s vision board (collage of desires and goals) is NOT going to match the next person’s. You do not have to be poor to be a good person. You don’t have to want to be a billionaire to lead a truly #abundant life. This book is what inspired me to begin offering group classes via FB Live. Thousands of dollars in revenue for moi, for $20. Thanks, Jen!!Picture me throwing this book at your head and yelling, “READ IT!” because that is exactly what’s happening.
I not-so-jokingly call Gilbert my “favorite problematic white lady,” because there are real issues of going to a previously colonized country, to “find oneself.”
Nevertheless, we’re all problematic on some level, and I’ve literally sobbed over her books. Seriously.
Big Magic is a book that will inspire you to #DoTheDamnThing as a creative. She reminds you that your work doesn’t (and probably won’t) generate a full-time income for a while yet and provides insights on anxiety and disappointment. She also speaks directly to women on perfectionism, and the idea that to be creative makes one selfish, or bad. She argues that ideas have life, and if you don’t act on an idea — somebody else will.
Her passage on navigating life with anxiety, was also incredibly helpful to me.
If you’re a creative who can’t remember the last time you actually created, or if you’re experincing a creative block, this book is for you.
Julia Cameron is a creative coach and spiritual guide with her book,The Artist’s Way. This is not a book where you get to sit and have information spoon-fed to you. No, this is a 12-week program designed to help you get your shit together. My favorite component of Cameron’s process is “Morning Pages,” where one sits and free-writes – EVERY MORNING! It’s such a refreshing way to get out the random thoughts, ideas and feelings that then become never ending cycles of the same thoughts.
Interestingly enough, Julia Cameron self-published the book, in the early 1990’s, way before kindle and nook hit the scene. She believed in it, so she created it, and it blew up.
Easily confused with Lao Tzu’s The Art of War, this book will scrape your soul. It’s kind of awesome, but also terrible.
Y’all, I have had books (of all genres), literally follow me around until I finally start reading them. The same book is gifted by multiple people, recommended out of the blue, etc.
This is one of those damn books. I downloaded it to my nook app, and avoided it for about a year.
Then, I was stuck in the Buenos Aires airport, and the app reset and ERASED ITSELF. Leaving only The War of Art on it. I had 7 hours, where I could either sit and pretend I understood the news in Spanish, or I could read this damn book.
I am convinced my Muse set this up.
So, I sucked it up and began reading. And it’s about 100 pages of pure, get-in-your-face demands to either do the fucking work or get out. Pressfield shares principles, stories from his own career, and those of others, to illustrate that there really is only one choice: To do the work or not.
This book is refreshing, and the first line of author, Elan Gale’s, bio is: “Elan Gale is a strange person and Executive Producer of The Bachelor.” WELL, that line caught my attention right off. “Here’s a book by a dude who has created a cultural phenomenon, but isn’t in the ~woo woo~ category.” I picked it up, thumbed through it, and went back to my perusal of urban fantasy.
I went back to B&N the next day to get this book, because I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Gale does not blow smoke up your ass, and while I don’t 100% believe his take on using anger/failure to fuel you, he makes a lot of good points. ESPECIALLY about how to utilize frustration to move you forward, instead of getting mired in it. He also shares interviews with contemporary creatives, the kinds that will never be on Oprah, which is honestly a little refreshing.
A word: Steven Pressfield (#3) is an honest professional mentor telling you to get your act together. And Elan Gale is your older brother/cousin/rowdy uncle telling you in great detail how he fucked up, and how you will also fuck up, but hopefully you can learn from his fuck ups to make something of yourself. Honestly, I kept waiting for Gale to pass the blunt, because that’s the kind of real talk that’s in this book.
Okay, folks! Thus ends this listicle. Don’t wait to buy one of these books. Remember, that audible gives you 2 books for free. Put on a book in your car, and realize deep uncomfortable truths about yourself. That’s when your Work will get good.