From My Shelves: Ten Books for Creative Inspiration

Thank you to Joy Weese Moll, for suggesting that I put together a list of books ideal for creative inspiration for this month’s BAND (Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees) discussion of books that support goals and resolutions. It was a great idea, and I’ve had a blast this past weekend going through the books on my shelves, picking out the most creativity-inspiring books!

One of my intentions for 2012 is to be more creative – and to add a nice dose of commitment to this intention, I also signed up for the Creative Every Day challenge. I’ve been doing fairly well with this “be creative” goal of mine, but one thing I’ve discovered: it’s much easier to do something creative every day if I prepare myself for creativity.

Preparation for creativity requires two things: materials, and inspiration. It’s easy to get together the materials you need, once you’ve been inspired. So creative inspiration is key!

These are all books I pulled from my bookshelves; some of them I’ve read, some of them have been hanging around waiting (often for quite a while) for me to read them. I spent the weekend looking through a huge pile of books (I am notorious for being unable to resist these kinds of books) and ended up with this list of ten creativity-inspiring books.

1. 52 Projects: Random Acts of Everyday Creativity, by Jeff Yamaguchi

52 Projects: Random Acts of Everday Creativity

52 Projects is the companion book to the 52 Projects website. It’s worth reading through the projects because even when a project doesn’t particularly tempt you, you might find yourself coming up with appealing variations on the theme. Here’s one for book lovers (who aren’t adverse to writing in books, that is!):

Write in the margins of your books. Underline your favorite passages. Then, make sure to donate the books, or sell them to a used bookstore, to put them back into circulation.

2. Journal Bliss: Creative prompts to unleash your inner eccentric, by Violette

Journal Bliss

This glossy, colorful book is filled with ideas for your journal – if you’ve never incorporated art into your daily journal, you’ll come away with ideas for some fun things to liven up your pages. What I liked best about this book is its emphasis on doodling and drawing. I love the idea of creating my own fanciful lettering, too. And here’s something I could definitely make use of:

Start a file, box or scrapbook of flourishes and interesting doodles that you like clipped from magazines, junk mail or catalogs. Then, refer to your inspiration collection whenever you need ideas for your own doodles.

3. Caffeine for the Creative Mind: 250 Exercises to Wake Up Your Brain, by Stefan Mumaw and Wendy Lee Oldfield

Caffeine for the Creative Mind

This thick little paperback is beautifully designed and great for just flipping open whenever you’re in need of a bit of creative inspiration. While the book is meant for graphic designers, it’s easy to change things up and transform the design-related exercises into art or writing ones. There are lots of photography prompts, too, for those days when you just want to play around with your digital camera.

Here’s one for those who love the zombie genre:

As any sane person will tell you, there will be a time when the area we currently live in will be overrun by hordes of flesh-craving zombies. Naturally, we have all prepared for this inevitability, correct? Of course we have. The task today, in case this vital piece of preparation has eluded your usually comprehensive safety regimen, is to devise your zombie survival plan.

4. Living Out Loud: Activities to Fuel a Creative Life, by Keri Smith

Living Out Loud

Not only is this colorfully illustrated book filled with fun creative activities, there are also pages for you to write on or doodle in, game boards, fold-out pages and even sheets of stickers. It reminds me of a kid’s fun book – for adults!

Recipe Box of Secrets: Be your own research project

We are all collectors at heart. Creating a Box of Secrets gives you the chance to explore and to research things that will help you see the big picture when you need perspective.

5. The Write-Brain Workbook: 366 exercises to liberate your writing, by Bonnie Neubauer

Write-Brain Workbook

Unlike most books of writing exercises, The Write-Brain Workbook is designed to be written in. The pages are colorful and visually appealing, and each exercise also includes a bonus exercise entitled “Take the Next Step”. While you can read through the exercises from beginning to end, it’s definitely a book to flip open to a random page and ready, set … GO! Here’s the exercise I opened the page to just now:

You are a disgruntled Tooth Fairy. You can’t understand why Santa and even the Easter Bunny get more attention than you. You just visited twins who expected $20 per tooth. Start with: “I can’t believe …”

6. The Imagineering Workout, by The Disney Imagineers

The Imagineering Workout

The Imagineering Workout is filled with creativity tips from members of Disney’s Imagineering team. (Even a stroll through all the job titles is fun; can you imagine being a “visioning consultant”?!) Direct from the “How to use this book” page:

The Imagineering Workout is designed for those who are interested in shaping and toning their creative muscles. It’s written from the collective practice, wit, and wisdom of over one hundred Imagineers – each creative and yet each different in their creative expression. As a result, this book is a collection of exercises, note cards, write-in cards, jotted notes, journal pages, and illustrations that capture aspects of the creative process and routines Imagineers use daily to keep their creative muscles in the best of condition.

7. The Creative License, by Danny Gregory

The Creative License

The Creative License is all about living a more creative life, and Danny Gregory shows you how by focusing on drawing and journaling. The book is motivating and inspiring; it reminds you, you can do it. Here’s what I know: It really doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to draw – drawing is a skill that can be learned. I know this because I didn’t know how to draw. And then one day, I decided to learn. And it was fun. And then I stopped drawing. Now I’m ready to start again. If I can learn to draw, you can too!

We’re going to start by developing one of your creative skills. It’s a skill that you had when you were small but now almost certainly think you have lost. It’s a skill that will immediately begin to stretch your mind, to transform how you see the world. It’s a skill that takes minutes to learn but a lifetime to master.

You are going to learn to draw.

Yikes! (Gulp!)

8. Creative Is A Verb: If you’re alive, you’re creative, by Patti Digh

Creative Is a Verb

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know I’m in love with index cards. I use them in my writing, I use them to jot down quotes, I use them to brainstorm. In Patti Digh’s Creative Is a Verb, you journey back to your creativity with a few simple materials: a black pen, and a stack of 3X5 unlined index cards. And the Creative Challenge exercises come in two versions: word and image. So whether you’re a writer or an artist, there’ll be something in here to fill your creative well.

This is a book about waking up to the beauty around you – the beauty of seeing more and living more deeply. What emerges from that equation is art. Not Art with a capital A. That kind of Art scares me because it takes us out of the doing (writing to write, painting to paint) and right into performance, comparison, sales. I’m talking about art with no capital. The art that is your life. Artfulness that only you can create, that is uniquely, incredibly yours.

9. The Crafter’s Devotional: 365 days of tips, tricks, and techniques for unlocking your creative spirit, by Barbara R. Call

The Crafter's Devotional

Don’t worry if you’re not very crafty; I’m not (I’m a menace around glue guns), and opening The Crafter’s Devotional at random, I came across lots of things that inspired me. Even the crafty techniques that are sprinkled throughout the book are doable – fun for creative self-challenges (although you may have to research specific techniques a bit if you’re not familiar with the process involved). And there are more than craft techniques here; you’ll also find lots of quotes, artist interviews, creativity prompts and entries that just make you think and engage.

Revisit Childhood Crafts: Today’s task should be a fun trip down memory lane. Visit your favorite craft, toy, or art store and buy a kit for a craft you used to do as a kid. It could be bead looming, a miniature potter’s wheel, paper dolls, or sequin art. It may not look exactly like you remember, and the materials may have changed, but try to find a kit that resembles something you liked as a little child.

Buy the kit, take it home, and do the craft.

10. Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists : 52 creative exercises to make drawing more fun, by Carla Sonheim

Drawing Lab

This is probably the book I’ll turn to the most this year for the Creative Every Day challenge. There are a ton of creative project ideas in the drawing exercises in Drawing Lab, and best of all, your drawing skills will improve as you work your way through the book. I think this is also a great book for choosing something creative randomly. Flip it open and see what you find.

One suggestion I loved was Doodling on Steroids. You’ll need ten pre-selected drawing implements (markers, pens, pencils – anything that you can doodle with) and an audiobook (yes! an audiobook!). Here’s what you do: doodle while you’re listening to the audiobook. Don’t concentrate on what you’re doodling; focus on your audiobook. Switch your drawing tool every minute or so, making use that you use all ten of your drawing tools.

When your book or podcast is over, take some time to study your doodle drawing. You will likely learn some things about yourself, such as that you like purple or you are drawn to patterns and shapes more than to identifiable objects. These types of insights can be valuable as you endeavor to tease out your individual style.

These books are great fun to have around, and very inspiring. What titles would you recommend for living a more creative life?

12 thoughts on “From My Shelves: Ten Books for Creative Inspiration

  1. What a great idea for a post, I have saved this one for the next time I get to a book store or the library. Even though I don’t write or paint or do anything I consider to be specifically creative I do love to take photos and haven’t done nearly enough of that lately – I suspect I could find a bit of a push in one of these books. Thanks.

  2. I have favorites placed this post! Such great resources that I need to investigate.

    I have skimmed a couple of Keri Smith’s books, but I need to take the plunge a purchase one for myself to write in.

    I am currently re-reading Life is a Verb – and plan to follow that up with Creative is a Verb.

    Should be a fun 2012!!

  3. Oh I want to read several of these now! I have my students do exercises like these when I’m teaching but I ought to be doing them on my own, too! Thanks for sharing.

  4. I have already read several of the books on your list but have never heard of some too. Since we have similar tastes in books I am going to have to check the others out! Thanks!!!!

  5. LOVE this list! I see some wonderful gift ideas.

    Today’s goodreads quote reminded me that I needed to comment here…
    “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves.” (Thomas Merton)

  6. Pingback: Books for Resolutions, Goals, and Projects — January BAND wrap-up | Joy's Book Blog

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