Books on Creativity

Hundreds of books on creativity have been published. These are my favorites, the ones I keep pulling off the shelf for inspiration, encouragement and practical suggestions.

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The Art of Storytelling
by Nancy Mellon
(Boston: Element Books, 1992)
Mellon, a professional storyteller who works with puppets, regards her art as a magical imaginative journey to the self. She guides readers through the process of story construction from plot and setting to journeying through the elements, seasons and moods, and creating story characters. Reading the book caused me to think deeply about archetypes and the nature of the stories in my own life. Her suggestions for story making are wonderful. I’ve read this book three times and have highlighted so many striking passages that most of the pages are covered in yellow.

Finding What You Didn’t Lose: Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-Making
by John Fox
(New York: Tarcher, 1995)
This book is a guide to self-expression through poetry written for people who want to find their poetic voice. Chapters cover the importance of poem-making, revealing yourself in your poems, reconnecting with your natural creativity, experimenting with the delights of language and much more. The chapter on making poems from journal entries is especially useful. The techniques he presents will enable you to write moving, powerful and beautiful poetry even if you’ve never tried it before. Fox is a poet, a poetry therapist, and lecturer in the Graduate School of Psychology at John F. Kennedy University.

Aha! 10 Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit and Find Your Great Ideas
by Jordan Ayan
(New York: Crown, 1997)
Ayan, a creativity consultant, is a great summarizer, synthesizer and motivator. He draws on a number of sources to fill readers in on how the creative process works and then provides dozens of suggestions for tapping into your inborn creativity. These ideas are organized under ten strategies: connecting with people, designing an enriching environment, traveling, play and humor, reading, the arts, technology, problem-solving, working with intuition and spirituality. The style is both practical and inspirational. Open it to nearly any page and find a mini-workshop exercise to start your creative juices flowing.

The Artist’s Way: The Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
by Julia Cameron
(New York: Tarcher, 1992)
Cameron leads readers through a twelve-week program to recover a sense of safety, identity, power integrity, possibility, abundance, connection, strength, compassion, self protection, autonomy and faith. Artist, former journalist, and workshop presenter, she guides readers through learnable skills to help them use creativity in a spiritual way and to become self-empowered. This book is a classic.

Life, Paint and Passion: Reclaiming the Magic of Spontaneous Expression
by Michell Cassou and Stewart Cubley
(Foreword by Natalie Goldberg)
(New York: Tarcher, 1995)
This book literally fell off the shelf and at my feet one day. The next thing I knew, I’d bought paints and had begun using them. The short chapters encourage and inspire you to reclaim your sense of what is authentic in you. The authors believe that the art we make is a part of the big painting of our lives. “You are on your own,” they write of the act of painting, “standing by yourself in the middle of creation. In the beauty of that aloneness, and in how you respond to it you will find your passion.” This book is an excellent and fun place to begin if you want to explore making visual art.

Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils and Rewards of Artmaking
by David Bayles and Ted Orland
(Santa Cruz, CA: Image Continuum Press, 1993)
This underground classic in the arts community is a very useful book for anyone who stops themselves from acting on their creativity. Bayles and Orland, invite readers to ask the three questions that matter: What is my art really about? Where is it going? and What stands in the way of getting there? The authors, who are working photographers, pull no punches about the hard work of making art, but offer keen insights about how to persist through these difficulties.

Fearless Creating: A Step by Step Guide to Starting and Completing your Work of Art
by Eric Maisel, Ph.D.
(New York: Tarcher, 1995)
Maisel, a psychotherapist who has worked with artists and performers for ten years, believes that anxiety is inherent in the creative process. He takes readers through the steps of nurturing the wish to create, choosing the next subject, starting work, working, completing work and showing work. The exercises in this book have an almost Zen-like quality, and I’ve found them highly effective for breaking through my perfectionism and procrastination to actually get down to the act of creation itself.

Wild Heart Dancing: A Personal, One-Day Quest to Liberate the Artist and Lover Within
by Elliot Sobel
(New York: Fireside Books, 1994)
If you’ve always wanted to take a creativity retreat, this book will show you how to create your own. Alternating dancing, singing and painting exercises with self-reflective writing exercises on fear, appreciation and purpose, he’ll lead you through a day guaranteed to make something happen. Zany and wise, this painter, writer and singer helps readers rediscover passion and talents they didn’t know they had.

Freeing the Creative Spirit: Drawing on the Power of Art to Tap the Magic & Wisdom Within
by Adriana Diaz
(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992)
This book consists of twenty-five exercises and wonderfully inspiring text that inspires readers to develop meditative reverence and to use art as a tool to connect with the self, the world and the divine. By doing the work suggested here it is possible to turn the inner critic into an inner ally. This is a great introduction to drawing and painting if you’ve never tried it before.

Sweat Your Prayers: Movement as Spiritual Practice
by Gabrielle Roth
(New York: Tarcher, 1997)
Put on your dancing shoes. Gabrielle Roth, dance teacher, recording artist and director discusses five rhythms in this book and explains how they can be powerful tools for turning suffering into art and art into awareness. She suggests music to incorporate in a movement practice at the beginning of each chapter.

The Power of Your Other Hand: A Course in Channeling the Inner Wisdom of the Right Brain
by Lucia Capacchione
(North Hollywood: Newcastle Publishing Co., 1988)
This book teaches readers the powerful technique of non-dominant hand writing, which is a powerful tool for finding the artist and healer within as well as dialoging with the inner child. An art therapist and journal keeper, Capacchione leads readers who do the exercises in this book to breakthrough insights.

(Please see the journaling and memoir writing booklist for more good books on writing as a creative practice.)