I love a good book on creativity. I love the inspiration, love new knowledge when I stumble upon it, love when my own struggles and discoveries are mirrored by someone else’s story. It’s an inexhaustible topic, and the more I learn about the creative process, the more of a mystery it seems. (Which is as it should be, when we approach something bigger than us.)
Without role models and precursors we don’t get far. That is a fact. We clear the way for each other; we give permission and guidance, and we hold each other accountable. I find so much support and strength in the quiet community of likeminded souls surrounding me – many of them in the shape of books. I cannot imagine how endless the road would have seemed without them. Or how lonely.
Here are seven books that deliver wisdom, practical knowledge and boundless inspiration:
The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron
”Many people, caught in the virtue trap, do not appear to be self-destructive to the casual eye. Bent on being good husbands, fathers, mothers, wives, teachers, whatevers, they have constructed a false self that looks good to the world and meets with a lot of worldly approval. This false self is always patient, always willing to defer its needs to meet the needs or demands of another.
Virtuous to a fault, these trapped creatives have destroyed the true self, the self that didn’t meet with much approval as a child. The self who heard repeatedly, ”Don’t be selfish!” The true self is a disturbing character, healthy and occasionally anarchistic, who knows how to play, how to say no to others and yes to itself.”
This is the Bible. I’ve written about it before and I will again. It’s basic and …. Passionate and wise, and will guide you all the way from confusion and block to flow and creative freedom. If you don’t know where to begin – begin here.
The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp
”When creativity has become your habit; when you’ve learned to manage time, resources, expectations, and the demands of others; when you understand the value and place of validation, continuity, and purity of purpose – then you’re on the way to an artist’s ultimate goal: the achievement of mastery.”
Twyla Tharp is a dancer and choreographer who has devoted her entire life to her craft. These are her collected thoughts on how and why. I don’t always agree with her, but love her devotion and her solid knowledge. It’s never just information with Tharp, she generously shares her own experience, collected over many years of hard labour, great successes, and equally great failures.
Creativity, by Osho
”The first step is receptivity, since the ego can not exist in receptivity – it can only exist in conflict. When you are receptive your imagination suddenly becomes enormously powerful.”
Because creativity cannot be separated from spirituality, not if we’re serious about understanding it. My copy is so full of scribbles in the margin and underlined sentences; it’s hardly readable anymore.
Bird by Bird, av Anne Lamott
”Take the attitude that what you are thinking and feeling is valuable stuff, and then be naive enough to get it all down on paper. But be careful: if your intuition says that your story sucks, make sure it really is your intuition and not your mother. ’I see this character in a purple sharkskin suit’, you suddenly think, and then the voice of the worried mother says, ’No, no, put him in something respectable.’ But if you listen to the worried mother, pretty soon you’ll be asleep and so will your reader. Your intuition will make it a much wilder and more natural ride.”
Bird by Bird is about writing, but most of it is applicable to creative processes in general. Lamott has a lovely voice, humourous and wise at the same time. In the middle of the most sincere resoning about some aspect of writing or life, she delivers a line so funny I have to back up and make sure I read it right.
Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
”Within every woman there lives a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. She is the Wild Woman, who represents the instinctual nature of women. But she is an endangered species.”
About women, for women (and some truly brave gentlemen), written by one of the wisest people I know of. I’ve read and returned to Women Who Run With the Wolves since I was a teenager. It never ceases to nourish me. There are always new insights and deep inspiration to be found in it. It is an urgent call to come home, whenever I’m lost. To turn around and return home.
Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon
”If I’d waited to know who I was or what I was about before I stared ’being creative’, well, I’d still be sitting around trying to figure myself out instead of making things. In my experience, it’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are.
Austin Kleon has gathered ten simple principles to help and inspire the reader to a more creative life. And they do. Kleon keeps it short n’ sweet, builds on the work of others (which, by the way, is one of his ten principles), and focuses on what makes us thrive, not what keeps us stuck. I like the elegant simplicity, the kind address, and Kleon’s humble approach to his own art.
Succulent Wild Woman, by Sark
”In our stories are seeds of our deepest longings and wishes. Through story, creative buds can burst into life. (…) The tiniest story in you life can deeply touch another. You cannot know the effect your story might have. Please let it be heard.”
Really, you could chose anyone of Sark’s books, because they’re all wonderful, but Succulent Wild Woman is a long-time favourite of mine. Sark’s books have a totally unique mix of wild creative outbursts, quiet reflection, humour, tenderness and a healthy lack of regard for conventions. She has helped me stretch my creative boundaries ever since I found her, as an uptight, confused twenty year-old.
(And if you have a favourite of your own that’s not on this list, please let me know!)