This summer has had me exploring the nature of creativity, what will inspire or cajole me into getting my writing groove on, and boy has it taken me to some delicious places. Here I share five books on creativity, our penchant for procrastination and believing we’re just not that creative – yeah my friend who does all that scrap booking is creative, and my painting teacher – she’s creative for sure. Me? Nah.
Well, blah blah blah to all that, because the reality is that we all have ideas, inpsirations and aspriations and for most us half the problem is that it all got whipped out of us at an early age. And because in any school classroom there are children with different talents (my best friend was one of the best graphic artists in my school, so I got the message pretty early on I didn’t have any talent. The trouble is, I just didn’t draw precise tidy lines very well. I did other stuff nicely, but those weren’t in the curriculum. Go figure.) we make pretty big decisions at a pretty early age about what we can and can’t do, what we’re good at and not, and whether we are creative or not.
The question is not whether you are creative, but in what way you are creative. Some people are super creative about designing buildings, clothes, or engineered processes for more effectively recycling plastic waste. Some are creative geniuses when it comes to building business, boats or brilliant teams of people. What is your creative genius?
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Known worldwide for her memoir, Eat Pray Love, Liz Gilbert is also a novelist (The Signature of All Things is divine reading) and here in Big Magic she very generously shares many of her personal experiences and stories of other creatives, offering honest, real and endlessly inspiring insights in tapping into your own creativity. She doesn’t pull any punches and is keen to dispel the myth that you have to be long-suffering, miserable, pot-smoking, penniless imp to create important works of art; be they words, pictures, objects or anything your heart desires.
She’s up front too about the necessary persistence with the dull reality of sitting down to do something, even if you’re not in the mood or inspired, knowing that simply showing up and doing the work is a big part of doing creative stuff. But there is so much more in this book than just this.
I love her take on where inspiration comes from, and the book left me with a feeling that inspiration is in fact all around us, and if we keep one eye open for it, we’ll get better and better at catching it and riding the wave.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
I loved this book, and it is a tight, short-chaptered, well-paced book to chomp through like a good toasted sandwich. Like Gilbert, Pressfield is a highly respected writer (he’s written various famous novels) and kindly shares here how he does that in a way that reminds us while there’s magic in any good writing, the process isn’t entirely mysterious, and is really in many ways downright practical. Amen.
Particularly aimed at writers, but damn good reading for anyone who procrastinates or doesn’t quite succeed where they want to, The War of Art, wakes us up to what stops us getting on with getting good, getting done and getting a life. “If you find yourself criticizing other people, you’re probably doing it out of resistance. When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own.”
It is made of three ‘books’. Book one is about what Pressfield calls the enemy of creativity: Resistance. The thing that stops us from simply sitting down to write. And boy does he cover every face of resistance, for resistance has many faces. The second book is about combating resistance with what he calls turning pro. Here it gets practical and honest and real. The third book is about The Higher Realm, where also like Gilbert, he talks about where inspiration comes from. “When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us … we become like a magnetized rode that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”
Perhaps not only is there a war of art, but a war of happiness, a war of living – and the war is with ourselves. This book might just offer a white flag to wave at yourself, and allow at least one small corner of your mind to find some peace.
The Genius Groove by Dr Manjir Samanta-Laughton
Dr Samanta-Laughton is known for her first book, Punk Science, offering leading edge insights into quantum physics and more. The Genius Groove, by many accounts, is not as well written or in-depth, and I noticed a number of typos and grammatical errors within the book which is unusual for a published book. So why have I included it here? Well as you’ve no doubt experienced yourself, some books really are life-altering. They give us a new perspective on life or ourselves, and suddenly the whole landscape of the universe – or our inner universe – changes in a moment. I can recall a handful of books that fall into that category for me, and the Genius Groove is one of them. Dr Samanta-Laughton is a medical doctor in the UK, and her book is a distillation of current and leading edge neuroscience, quantum physics and cosmology – all in the context of finding your own genius groove. It’s easy to read, has some big ideas and answers some great questions about life. Well worth a read if you have questions about how you can get into your genius groove.
Succulent Wild Women + Making Your Creative Dreams Real: A plan for Procrastinators, Perfectionists, Busy People, and People Who Would Really Rather Sleep All Day by SARK
For those of you who love beautiful visuals, loving words and deep wisdom, I’ve included two of Sark’s books here too – full of creative genius, inspiration and downright good practical advice. A great combination! SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy) is a great example of someone who has found the balance/art/trick(!) to living a creative, wholehearted life doing what she loves, and well, making a living. Not everyone will love her style, but check out what you can online and if it seems to resonate, dive in.
Do you have a highly recommended book you want to share? I would love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments below or head over to the “start with you” Facebook page.