Oh no, you’ve been staring at a blank canvas or a white page for days now, even weeks, and nothing is coming to you. You’ve got a big deadline coming up and the more coffee you drink, the more agitated and less concentrated you get, and the ideas just won’t come. Are you in a creative rut and need a little inspiration? Books on creativity might just be your answer.
Tom Kelley, co-owner of IDEO, a highly innovative design firm, told Oprah.com that the key to creativity is not letting any ideas escape you: “Ideas are precious and fragile and tend to show up when we’re in the shower, in bed, or stuck in traffic. So we forget them. Try to capture 100 percent of your ideas—on your BlackBerry, in a notebook, on the back of receipts or boarding passes.” Sometimes, stepping aside from what you’re working on and reading advice from other creative types is all you need to get your wheels turning before… eureka!.. an idea pops in your head. Here are 10 books on creativity to get you thinking in new ways.
1. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont Written with humor and frankness, Lamont’s all-time classic on creative writing takes its inspiration from a school assignment the author’s ten-year-old brother once had to write on birds, due the next day. On the brink of tears from stress, their father told him: “Just take it bird by bird.”
2. It’s Not How Good You Are It’s How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden As the former Creative Director at Saatchi and Saatchi, Arden is one of the advertising world’s most respected voices. In this straight to the point, self-help handbook, those in the business world lacking in creative confidence will instantly feel their juices start to flow.
3. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield Oprah Winfrey is most likely a fan of Pressfield’s work because he insists that each of us should pursue our calling by living in “the zone” as often as possible. Lose yourself in front of the easel or at your desk. But just do it, he pleads, for the pain of not doing it is worse than doing it.
4. Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch The cinematic genius opens up on creativity, sharing his own art-making secrets. “Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper.”
5. Creativity Inc., by Ed Catmull Written by the longtime president of Pixar Animation Studios, which he co-founded, this book quickly became the latest bible for the show business crowd. Catmull is for sharing and against waiting for perfection when it comes to showing others the potential of your idea/work in progress.
6. The Tenacity of the Cockroach, edited by Stephen Thompson The satirical publication The Onion also runs fascinating interviews with venerable directors, writers, actors, and musicians on creativity and the business, making these conversations with entertainment’s most enduring outsiders totally hilarious and inspiring.
7. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp This is one of the best books on creativity out there. Creativity for this dancer extraordinaire is not a divine intervention, but something that comes from work and buckets of sweat. Full of simple exercises to ease the fears of anyone staring at a blank canvas, Tharp helps those struggling to find ideas and move forward.
8. Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David M. Kelley The authors, owners of the award-winning design firm IDEO, identify strategies that will allow you to tap into your creative potential at work. Filled with quirky and useful ideas ranging from making mind maps to jotting things down in the shower, the Kelleys won’t disappoint.
9. On Writing by Stephen King The bestselling author’s classic memoir and timeless advice book for writers has been a fixture in classrooms since its publication in 2000. “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
10. Just Kids by Patti Smith If you ever dreamed of ditching a small town and heading to New York City, without a dime in your pocket, and then somehow wind up meeting the craziest and boldest artists on the planet (and become famous yourself!), then this book will free your mind, sister. By far, one of the most inspiring books on creativity we have read.