Self-help Books for Creative People

May 19, 2014

The pages of are full of books promising to change your creative career and help you build the business of your dreams! Some of them sound so life altering that I can't help but believe that all I'm missing are the magical words and theories of ________________________.  Here's the thing: there are few hours in the day (as previously discussed), and most of us benefit more by spending time making things, rather than thinking or reading about making things (I believe this strongly). BUT, it you were going to read some things, here are a handful of titles that I'm glad I have in my library.

If you need help getting out of your own way & getting shit done: Read anything by Steven Pressfield. Start with The War of Art, but also check out Do The Work and Turning Pro. Pressfield gives tough love about starting a regular artistic practice. (All of these are quick reads.) Also, read Twyla Tharp's Creative Habit. You'll instantly feel inferior, but she's also inspiring and smart.

If you're battling demons (i.e. freaking out about the vulnerability of making what you love and showing it to other people): Read Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland, and Brené Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection, both great reminders that you'll be ok, and that vulnerability is an awesome part of being alive!

If you want to learn about money: I learned some things from Suz Orman's The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke, which I found on super special at a used bookstore. I'm sure there are money books with less obnoxious titles, though. Do you have a favorite one?

If you're feeling creatively stuck: Why read Creative Block by Danielle Krysa, of course. In it 50 artists share prompts for getting moving creatively. There's also some really stunning visual art, worth the purchase of the book alone.

If you want writing assistance: Bird by Bird is the way to go, but it's as much a guide for making anything as a book on writing.

If you're trying to put together a sane (less scary) creative life: Jonathan Field's Uncertainty: Turning Fear And Doubt Into Fuel For Brilliance discusses finding anchors (like exercise and routine) to help calm the uncertainty of working for yourself.

If you want to know more about the business-plan side of starting a business: Creative, Inc discusses logos, agents, and business growth. I think it's most helpful for people who are photographers/designers/visual artists, rather than people who do more obscure things (modern dance, say). I also liked Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist, which shares smart thoughts on art-making and business building.

What are you favorite self-help books for creative people? How do you know when to read, and when to shut the books and get to work?


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