When I was in the fifth grade, I had one of my favorite and best teachers, Ms. Bolton. We read so much in this class, so many books that remain with me today. One of them wasn’t a “children’s book” at all–it was SARK’s A Creative Companion. I had never encountered anything like it. I will be forever grateful to Karen Bolton for introducing me to the world of books about creativity at such an early age. I was in love, hooked for life. Since then I’ve read hundreds of books on creativity, the creative process, you name it.

Here are some of my favorites:

Writing Down Your Soul by Janet Cannon: This book just found me. It has already changed my morning pages practice (a practice I got from the seminal book The Artist’s Way), making it a more profound and creatively generative experience. It’s morning pages + divine guidance + finding your voice + resilience 101. The author, Janet Cannon, has an incredible story of how her daily writing practice literally saved her life. It contains prompts and questions and practices that will help you dig deep. 

The Joy Diet by Martha Beck: I cannot tell you how many times I ask clients what brings them joy, what they do for fun, what makes them feel alive and I get a blank stare (or the audio equivalent–“huh?”). Following your feel good, as my buddy Sarah Bamford Seidelmann calls it, is one of the best ways to reliably tap into your source of creative inspiration. When I talk to clients who are “all work and no play,” I’m not surprised that they’re feeling creatively stuck or tapped out. This is a great book for people who can’t remember the last time they felt really alive, engaged, and absorbed–it helps you uncover what actually brings you joy, not just what theoretically might bring you joy when you get around to it, and how to effectively incorporate it into your life.

Bird by Bird, but pretty much anything by Anne Lamott. You have heard of this book. It’s on par with The Artist’s Way in terms of mainstream recognition, and it deserves every bit of it. Anne Lamott’s  genius is in helping us see how all the flailing and the struggle is part of the point, not just something to get around as fast as possible. She is delightfully, fully human, and her instructions on life and creativity are grounded in her generous humanity.

The Creative Habit: Learn it and use it for life by Tywla Tharp: This book, written by the famous dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp, is about the importance of cultivating creative habits in your life regardless of what your medium is. By making creativity a habit, instead of waiting for it to strike, you are committing to it in a way that delivers. There are a lot of practical ideas in this book, too, about how to organize your creative projects, that are ideal for people who work across media.

The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle Laporte: I purchased this way back when it was a digital product and now it’s an actual book you can hold in your hands. Danielle Laporte is the high priestess of marrying the sacred and the pragmatic in her approach to creative work for a reason–I refer to this again and again.

Steven Pressfield’s books, The War of Art, Do The Work, and Turning Pro are also good resources for understanding resistance in your creative practices. I do want to place a caveat here that I sometimes find his approach a little aggressive and “push through the pain” which doesn’t work for me, or most of my clients, but his ideas on resistance are really valuable, so I’m including him here, with reservations.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh: Yep, this is a children’s a book. One of the best children’s books ever written–don’t argue. It’s also one of the best books about writing, creative integrity, and navigating the tricky line between telling the truth in your art and hurting people you care about. It contains some of my favorite advice ever, which applies to all of us, at any age, from the wise and hard-ass Miss Golly:

“Remember that writing is to put love into the world, not to use against your friends. But to yourself you must always tell the truth.

Another thing. I guard my memories and love them, but I don’t get in them and lie down.

You’re eleven years old which is old enough to get busy at growing up to be the person you want to be.”