I sometimes wonder whether I’m a reader because I’m a writer or if I became a writer because I’m a reader…and if it even matters. Maybe it’s all the same thing. I feel like I’ve been interested in storytelling from the time I could form a thought, and when I became an adult I also became very interested in healing and personal development. There’s a big overlap in the two, as living as a creative requires leaving a lot of room for inspiration while balancing self-discipline. Spontaneity and patience. Structure and freedom.
My own creative inspirations come from all over the place, and when I need a boost of juice from outside of my own mind, I often turn to books. To me, the fact that anyone has managed to write and publish a book at all is a miracle in and of itself, and witnessing that when it’s filled with inspirational content—even better. I’ve learned a lot about myself through reading about other people’s experiences as well as have found camaraderie and motivation in the times that it didn’t exist in other parts of my life.
There are many books that I return to again and again for those reasons. The following books have each creatively inspired me in one way or another.
This post may contain affiliate links. Check out the disclosure page.
The Artist’s Way is a classic for good reason. It’s amazing, and it always holds up. I recently re-read it on a trip to Washington (one half on the flight there, the other half on the way back), and it inspired me as much as if not more than the first time I read it.
The book goes into a variety of topics related to the creative life, including addictions, money, fear, etc. And beyond that, it offers up a ton of exercises to do and things to consider that can actually start changing your life and relationship to creativity if you let it.
Part of the book’s suggestion is embarking on the daily pages; ie, daily journaling about literally anything. Getting the pages done is more important than what you write in them, although you can usually find some interesting stuff in there even if you feel like you’re just scribbling away. I love this practice and use it to write down everything from realizations about my past to things I’d like to make happen in the future and everything in between.
This book is not about creativity per se, but it is about creating affluence, which is in itself creative. And important for creatives. This book is one of those small quick reads, and it’s meant to be read and re-read. I’ve probably read it 50 times. Truly.
It taps into the concept of quantum physics, the nature of abundance, and how to bring the natural state of affluence back into our lives. I love any book that suggests that the knowledge in it can just be digested, which this one does. It’s a very straightforward and satisfying read.
“Affluence, unboundedness, and abundance are our natural state. We just need to restore the memory of what we already know.”
Again, this is not a book that’s directly about creativity per se, but one that is beneficial to all. Brene Brown is a researcher on concepts like shame. More specifically She researches how we might embrace our vulnerabilities to live a more courageous—and satisfying—life. I don’t know about you, but my own creative path has included plenty of shame.
It could be partly the era I grew up in, perhaps something closer to home, but I can’t say that I was always encouraged to be an artist and pursue my creative passions. There was a bit of the “don’t you dare” vibe even though those are the things I actually excel at.
So while there’s nothing inherently shameful about my interests, there can a process of overcoming those messages. Daring Greatly is an awesome book for shifting the perspectives of why we experience shame and driving home the truth that it’s a much more powerful choice to, you know, dare greatly.
George Leonard blends zen philosophies and his experience with the martial arts aikido to show how more harmony can be experienced in life. It’s applicable to any and every type of life, creative or not, because part of the message is simply about how to find more harmony where you are.
When you’re an artist or pursuing a creative life, things don’t always present as a quick direct path. Some days (or months) you’ll be on fire with inspiration, and other weeks you’ll wonder if you’ll ever accomplish anything ever again. (Right? Not just me?)
It’s a bit of a trap to be creating with the goal of achieving in mind, because what that looks like is constantly changing. And your ideas of what achievement or success is will always be leveling up. One of the best ways to make life work more smoothly is to be grateful for what you already have, and what we really have, is the present. This book can help make the most of these little moments as well as overcome obstacles along the way.
This book takes the idea of thinking differently and gives examples of putting it into action. Some of the themes covered include learning when to quit, the importance of being a beginner, and putting aside the moral compass in regard to decision making.
The message is something along the lines of stay more curious and more open-minded if you want to be better at solving problems. Which directly benefits our creativity.
The whole act of creation involves letting new ideas flow through you. And when it comes to working on creative projects in the real world, being flexible within the process is crucial. This book offers new, inspiring ways of thinking, and you know never in what ways new information will start opening your mind, and therefore, your creative opportunities.
Tim Glover has been responsible for coaching basketball players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade, from as the title suggests, good to unstoppable. The book has tons of real-life stories about legendary people doing legendary things, made relatable by explaining how these things happen.
It’s not exactly a surprise that a hot career in the NBA takes obsessive commitment levels to practice, but hearing about how focused this process is will give you some perspective about where you could be better spending your time. We’re not all trying to be Michael Jordan but would we like to be the best in our respective fields? Yes, we would. Inspo for days.
I find it hard to imagine that there isn’t anyone who doesn’t already love devouring books by Elizabeth Gilbert. (She also wrote Eat, Pray, Love, maybe you’ve heard of it.) But in case you need an introduction, she’s extremely honest, accessible, entertaining, and totally spot on.
I love the straightforward, feel-good nature of Big Magic and its can-do must-do attitude when it comes to expressing creativity. Her attitude has a realistic and applicable “why the f**k*” not vibe that’s totally contagious.
I’ve actually read it a couple times (wait a couple years and books are practically like new again!), which is why it was a must add to this list of inspiring books.
Mastery details the behaviors of genius people throughout history, such as Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, and Leonardo da Vinci—with the intention of inspiring you to be more like them. Not that you need to become someone who you’re not…the book makes the point that anyone can reach the master level within their craft with the right focus and some apprenticeship. (Or maybe some mentorship.) This book made the list of inspiring books for it’s major self-empowerment message. I’ve got that growth mindset, baby!
Richard Branson has a few books and they’re all great. Like a Virgin is his story of creating Virgin (of course), which is quite an adventure of a ride. He’s a fun and inspiring read because he’s always stayed very true to himself with a bit of a rebel attitude about the whole business thing. He takes chances, and creates big successes.
He has fun, he’s very rich, and he lives on a private island. Therefore, we trust his business insights.
While Never Eat Alone doesn’t necessarily evoke the warm and fuzzy feel-good version of inspiration, it very much inspired me to start networking which totally changed my life. It basically shares real-life examples of why you should be connecting with other people all the time.
In the past, I was not a big networker, at all.
But when I started mostly working from home, I realized that I was strongly missing the sense of community that’s totally crucial to…do anything. It takes a village, people. After reading this book on two different occasions I was like okay, I suppose I’m ready to network.
My networking journey began by hopping on relevant apps and talking to other professionals with similar interests or experience. The habit the completely transformed my professional life within a short amount of time. Now it’s very hard to imagine why I was ever not networking. That’s why this is a crucial pic for this list of inspiring books.