7 Books Sure to Inspire Creative Expression

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March 11, 2016

Need a little jumpstart for your imagination? Here’s our team’s top 7 recommended “classics” that will spark your creativity. Enjoy as you discover lots of new ways express yourself!

  1. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Written by a leader in positive psychology, Flow offers case studies and research that illuminate the ingredients for experiencing a state of profound happiness and creativity, known as “flow”.  While it is not a “how-to” book per se, it points readers in the direction of discovering ways to move closer this state of optimal experience by unveiling general principals like: balancing skill and challenge, cultivating purpose, and stretching ourselves.  While it highlights accomplished folks, the reader is still left inspired with the message that while it’s not easy, anyone can do it.
  2. Spark: How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein and Kurt Andersen: Born from the NPR show Studio 360, Spark offers a series of brief interviews with artists on the topic: what is the source of your creativity?  From a garden, to the death of a loved one, and a learning disability, Spark not only gives you brief glimpses into creative inspiration but it also reminds us that creativity springs from a variety sources including life’s challenges.
  3. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron: An international bestseller, this book provides a 12-week course for clearing creative blocks.  It guides readers to reflect on barriers to artistic expression including past “creative injuries,” current negative beliefs, and fears of exposing one’s self.  Weekly assignments range from listing creative goals to diagraming your work-play (im)balance.  While positive affirmation exercises could be questioned based on contemporary research, and while it the strong spiritual component may not resonate with all, reviews hail The Artist’s Way as an encouraging guide to rediscovering your creativity.
  4. The book of loveDrawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards: Called “the world’s most widely used drawing instruction book”, Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain develops beginner artists’ drawing skills by cultivating their ability to see.  Exercises encourage you to draw what you see not what you know by offering tricks for drawing edges, light, shadow, and shapes. While some argue that too much content is dedicated to brain theory (some of which needs updating), many would say these criticisms are irrelevant because, simply, the techniques work.
  5. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon: This funky, graphic book declares that creativity, essentially, comes from collecting and combining other peoples’ ideas and re-imagining them into something new.  It’s a quick read, full of amusing yet practical exercises and advice like “fake it ‘til you make it,” distinguish between ideas worth stealing and not worth stealing, and “go deeper” by googling everything.  The take away message: creativity is communal and it is for everyone.
  6. Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott: Aimed at writers, but full of applicable advice for many of life’s challenges, Bird by Bird brings inspiration and guidance to help you put pen to paper.  Presented with a lot of honesty, and just as much humor about the life and struggles of a writer, this book tackles issues including fighting writer’s block, quieting negative self-talk, and breaking down large tasks into manageable bites.  Lamott makes it okay to have bad first drafts, to not quite know where you’re going with something, and to experience the clutter of life (and writing) as a gift.  While this book won’t walk you through how to edit, it will get you writing so that you will have something worth editing.
  7. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg: Sharing her own experiences as well as those of her students, Goldberg applies principals of Buddhist meditation to the writing process including: working from the present moment, “beginner’s mind”, and letting go of our thoughts to free space.  She embraces the notion that every moment is different and that different moments in self-expression call for different approaches, sharing practical tips like shifting from writing thoughts to typing or speaking.  More a motivator than a technical manual, this book inspires readers to tell the truth, write from the heart, and find joy in self-expression.

Have a favorite book that has inspired your creativity?  Let us know in the comment area below!


The Foundation for Art & Healing