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The Top 5 Creative Books To Kick 2020's Butt

With creative slumps part and parcel of an artist's life, in times like this they can feel heavier than ever. That's why it's always great to have an art-making manifesto on hand. Creative books to renew your inventive energy and unlock the artistic spark within. Here are 5 brilliant books on unleashing creativity. Relight that fire baby!

We all want to turn this year around. God knows it’s been rough on us all. Physically, emotionally and creatively. Now more than ever, I’ve found myself reaching for the tried and tested books on creativity. The ones that have battered pages and scuffed covers. The ones I can always count on to remind me why the hell I do this anyway. That even when it's hard as hell and you feel like you have the biggest of blocks - always provide me with a boost. The pep talk you need to get firmly back in the saddle - and have a bloody good time doing it.

There's a mix of stuff here. From the purely practical to the downright spiritual. Because sometimes you need the mystics to arrive at your doorstep. And other times you need to put on your accountant head. Because we are, by our very nature, chameleons. One size never fits all. But we will start with our all-time favourite. The one that really started it all for us.

1. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

What can we say about Elizabeth Gilbert? Other than frankly, the world doe snot deserve her saintly, humble, reverent and hilarious self. Her bestselling manual on creative living beyond fear has made a huge impact on my life and work.

The biggest tip I took away? That we are not our work. Before ego-centric capitalism took hold, artists believed ideas dropped on them. That we were just vessels of some greater being. So guess what? Criticism wasn't personal. And neither was a huge success. It was simply all thanks to the mysterious forces of creativity. Which, when you think about it, really takes a load off your shoulders. I am pretty sure I audibly sighed upon reading that.

Also, definitely check out her speaking on Under The Skin. She covers a lot here that she has discovered since writing the book. As always she talks about some delicious details of her lifestyle as an artist. Such a soothing listen.

The essential manual - I think it should reside on everyone's shelves! Great if you are feeling like a worm with no worth. Gilbert will scoop you right up. P.S - the book’s quotes make GREAT mantras. My personal fave?

"Enjoy your art - for if you do inspiration will hear you and draw near"

2. Your Art Will Save Your Life by Beth Pickens

Described as "A survival guide for the creatives among us" - which is what made me buy it. And it's true. A rallying cry and supportive hand to artists of all kinds, it's truly a manual for the creative life. Spanning areas from applying for grants to creating authentically. Pickens always helps me remember something really fucking fundamental. That what we are doing is important. That it adds to the fabric of society. That we deserve support, money, help and to feel good about what we do. She really helps you do it well too. Plus the first chapter's written in response to Trump's election - equal parts raw and resplendent!

Definitely one of the best books to increase creativity, take this with you on the tube. It’s a small size so is perfect for pumping some life into your commute! A practical rallying cry - great if you are feeling lost in a Trump run, post-COVID world. Here’s a lovely quote:

"You cannot possibly know right now how much your work is going to impact someone, someday. A single work can change and save a life, you know that. Likely, you’ve been on the receiving end throughout your life. Your work—the work you’re making right now and the work you haven’t dreamt of yet—is going to impact the people who need to experience it. But first, you have to get the work out of you and into the world!"

3. The Right To Write by Julia Cameron

Julia writes in a way that makes you feel like you've somehow fallen into her house and are sitting in her study. Insightful advice on creativity is interwoven with what is around her and in her mind at the time of writing. It's beautiful, bold and so inspiring. As she struggles with blocks and distractions in front of your very eyes. Her tools are for everyone, not just writers. They are wonderful at unlocking more of who you are as an artist. What excites you, how to discern your own taste, not be blindly led by what may be "in fashion".

She also spends a chapter talking about how important it is to "date yourself". To court your creativity. To woo it. Taking yourself to the theatre or buying new stationery. I mean, as if I needed another reason - but by god I love it.

Definitely more on the spiritual side, give this a go if you need some mojo back. One of the classic books on creativity that will stay on your shelves forever.

“Being in the mood to (create), like being in the mood to make love, is a luxury that isn't necessary in a long-term relationship. Just as the first caress can lead to a change of heart, the first sentence, however tentative and awkward, can lead to a desire to go just a little further.”

4. The Little Black Book - A Toolkit for Working Women By: Otegha Uwagba

Uwagba's little black book is a real treat. A silky, smooth and no bullshit guide to being a freelance creative. And a woman at that! It offers honest truths, strong direction and strategic advice. As the arts can be a vocation it can often mean we become devalued by others or ourselves. Uwagba provides a fresh perspective on this. On respecting yourself and what you create. On treating yourself as the badass business bitch you sometimes need to be. Chock full of brilliant practical advice and case studies, it's packs a real punch.

Grab this if you are feeling undervalued or someone hasn't paid thier invoice. She'll remind you what you deserve!

"Women who are striving for more. Women, who like me, want, or need to, make a change. Because things are changing aren't they? The offices, studios and coffee shops where we spend the majority of our waking hours are constantly evolving, and with them the rulebook on how to build a successful and fulfilling, creative career."

5. The Untethered Soul - By Michael A. Singer

Ok - we are getting to the seriously spiritual here. I promise it's not all palo santo and sage though. Whilst this isn't a traditional “being creative book” - I feel it has really helped my own artistic output. A potentially life-changing read, Singer articulates succinctly what no meditation really got through to me before. That we are not what we believe or think.

That there is a place below this. A deeper and more guttural place. One of insight, instinct and inventiveness. And this a place that can be really useful as an artist. It quiets the white noise of worry. Of the opinions of others. Of our own beliefs that we aren't good enough or have nothing to say. It's an incredibly balmy and soothing read that always helps me lower my sense of self. To a place that is way more productive - in the least "productivity" sense of the word.

Take this into the bath, light a candle, and let yourself melt away. Then see what comes to you about a project you are working on. It may make things a hell of a lot clearer once the chatter of the mind is out the way.

"The minute you stop putting your whole heart and soul into the mind as if it were your savior and protector, you will find yourself behind the mind watching it. That’s how you know about your thoughts: you are in there watching them. Eventually, you will be able to just sit in there quietly, and consciously watch the mind."

With this list of creative books, we hope you can call on them whenever you need. Books to increase creativity are always a great investment. Sometimes even looking at them on the shelves gives me the little pep talk I need to stop doubting and start doing. Happy Reading!

Author: Olivia Foan

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