1. War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Pressfield just says it like it is. He understands how creative practice works. He writes about struggling through the day to day act of being creative, whether it’s writing, making art, inventing, acting, or launching a business. There are a zillion barriers to being creative and the solution is to do the work. Pressfield writes about how to get past those barriers and he does it in a matter-of-fact, approachable style. The section on resistance is particularly invaluable.
2. The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron
This is the book that launched me into understanding and exploring my own creativity. I stumbled upon this book in 1998 while perusing the shelves of a small bookstore in Colorado. It was the first book I ever bought about creativity (and little did I know there would be many more to follow). The following year I moved to Portland, OR and took a class that followed the 12 weeks of the book. The class and the book changed my life. I started looking at myself differently and got more interested in how creativity can be developed over time. A couple of years later I started teaching classes based on The Artist’s Way. I resonated with so many of the challenges Julia Cameron wrote about and she had an uncanny ability to predict exactly when they would arise. I would often read each chapter at just the right time. One word of caution about this book – it is divided into 12 weeks worth of chapters with the premise that you would read one chapter each week and do the corresponding exercises. I recommend this approach. However, I know countless people who own this book and have only read through Week 2 because they didn’t finish the exercises. Just keep reading. Even if you can’t do the exercises, read the whole book. An even better approach is join up with some friends and do it together. Julia Cameron’s other books are great as well.
3. Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation by Linda Hill, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove, and Kent Lineback
This book explores the leadership of creativity and how to build organizations that can innovate over time. Leading creativity is not necessarily like any other type of leadership. The book explains several principles and each is followed by a real story demonstrating it in action. The leaders highlighted work at Pixar, Google, Volkswagen, the Pentagon, among others. The research behind the book is excellent and the stories make it come to life. Since teams are the #1 source of creativity in organizations, knowing how to lead them is critical to an organizations success.
4. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom Kelley and Dave Kelley
The Kelley brothers started the innovative design firm IDEO and Dave also started the Stanford d school. Needless to say they are experts and thought leaders in creativity and design thinking. This book highlights how creativity in a mindset. We all have incredible capacity to be creative, we just have to know how to tap into it. This book explains what you need to have creative confidence and offers many stories, examples, and exercises to help you get there.
5. Creativity 101 by James Kaufman
There are a lot of myths out there about creativity and how it works. Dr. James Kaufman has compiled the most up-to-date research to help explain how creativity works and dispel some myths. What I love about this book is that it’s research-based from someone with decades of understanding about creativity. Kaufman also has an easy to read writing style with a great sense of humor. More than once I laughed out loud while reading this.
6. Your Creative Power by Alex Osborn
This is an old book, written in 1948. It’s the source of the term “brainstorming.” Written by Alex Osborn, one of the founders of the marketing firm B.B.D.O., he wrote about “using the brain to storm a creative problem…” the process his company used to generate new ideas for their client. If you are only going to buy one book about creativity chose one of the other five, but if you are interested in the history of creative process and want to go back to the source then this is a great read.
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