Books To Fuel Your Creative Mind
“Books are the true means of acquiring talent, for if one does not read one remains ignorant, and ignorance can never produce true painters.” (Francesco Albani, Italian Baroque painter 1578-1660)
“I really like books that you can kind of hear as much as think about, that are so graphic and visual.” (Laurie Anderson, performance artist, composer and musician)
From the Art Quotes section of site of Robert Genn: The Painter’s Keys which is also the source of his painting above: “Self-portrait with Emily.”
[See quotes by him in post: Robert Genn on Melancholy, Art and Happiness.]
“I’m just an obsessive reader, and I think that’s another reason I became an actor.”
Nicole Kidman – See more quotes at bottom of page.
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Below are selected books from the hundreds of articles, as well as other book lists, on my various Talent Development Resources series of sites.
These books may help you further develop creative thinking and business innovation, and enhance your creative life and personal growth.
[Summaries / reviews from Amazon.com or other sources as noted.]
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Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined by Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD.
In his Scientific American blog Beautiful Minds, cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman writes that his book includes his “personal and scientific exploration of a broad range of research on the development of IQ, expertise, talent, and creativity.
“My investigation spans genetics and neuroscience, as well as evolutionary, developmental, social, positive, and cognitive psychology.”
From my Creative Mind article Scott Barry Kaufman On Shifting Awareness To Be More Creative.
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The Philosophy of Creativity: New Essays by Elliot Samuel Paul, Scott Barry Kaufman, Editors.
“Creativity pervades human life. It is the mark of individuality, the vehicle of self-expression, and the engine of progress in every human endeavor. It also raises a wealth of neglected and yet evocative philosophical questions: What is the role of consciousness in the creative process? How does the audience for a work for art influence its creation? How can creativity emerge through childhood pretending?
“Do great works of literature give us insight into human nature? Can a computer program really be creative? How do we define creativity in the first place? Is it a virtue? What is the difference between creativity in science and art? Can creativity be taught?
“The new essays that comprise The Philosophy of Creativity take up these and other key questions and, in doing so, illustrate the value of interdisciplinary exchange. Written by leading philosophers and psychologists involved in studying creativity, the essays integrate philosophical insights with empirical research.”
[Summary from Oxford University Press site; also lists table of contents.]
Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative, by Eric Maisel, PhD.
“Smartness is a smart person’s defining characteristic. Everything she thinks about the world—how she forms her identity, how she construes her needs, how she talks to herself about her life purposes and goals—is a function of how her particular brain operates.”
[See quotes from "Why Smart People Hurt" in several articles, including Challenged By Being So Smart.]
One of the reviews:
“This is a wise, insightful, and compassionate guide for bright, sensitive, and creative people. If you’re smart, you’ll get it.” —Michael J. Gelb, author of “How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day.”
Also read about Gelb’s Academy for Optimal Living online class How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. The Academy also offers a number of classes by Eric Maisel, and many other instructors.
by Jenny Doh.
“Projects and unique stories presented by Lisa Engelbrecht (a calligraphy/graffiti artist), metal artist Michael deMeng, digital collage artist Susan Tuttle, plus Kelly Rae Roberts, Lynn Whipple, Susannah Conway, Robert Dancik, Karen Michel, Rebecca Sower, Sarah Hodsdon, Suzi Blu, Stephanie Lee, Susanna Gordon, Marie French, Jette Clover, Melody Ross, Christine Mason Miller, LK Ludwig, Drew Emborsky, and Jenny Doh.
“Throughout the book you’ll find practical ideas to put you on the art-making path.”
My Ideal Bookshelf
by Thessaly La Force (Editor), Jane Mount (Illustrator)
“When I see my bookshelf expanding, it gives me the illusion that my brain is expanding too.” Malcolm Gladwell – one of “dozens of leading cultural figures who share the books that matter to them most” in the book.
“Contributors include Malcolm Gladwell, Thomas Keller, Michael Chabon, Alice Waters, James Patterson, Maira Kalman, Judd Apatow, Chuck Klosterman, Miranda July, Alex Ross, Nancy Pearl, David Chang, Patti Smith, Jennifer Egan, and Dave Eggers, among many others.”
By Brene Brown, PhD
Brown says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
In a post on her blog, she writes: “Before my research on wholeheartedness… I was completely disconnected from my creativity. My disconnection took the form of judgment, resentment, and fear: ‘A-R-T – how nice. I have a J-O-B – I’m doing real work.’ Today, I’m reconnected with my creativity and it’s transforming every part of my life.”
“In her chapter on creativity she explains the paralyzing properties of comparison. Brown may be one of the only writers in this genre that offers us a path for change and an honest look at the obstacles.” [From book description on her site brenebrown.com.]
[Her book is a best seller in Self-help/Creativity on Amazon.com]
The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion
by Virginia Postrel
[Grace Kelly, Cary Grant in To Catch A Thief - a photo in the book.]
“The 100 writers, designers, chefs, artists, musicians, and others collected here turned in titles that, taken together, conspire to form the ultimate creative person’s reading list.” (Vogue)
“Using lively prose, fascinating images, and examples that range from Alexander the Great to Kate Moss, Postrel brings to life an elusive subject. This book is essential reading for people in advertising, marketing, politics, and entertainment — as well as for anyone interested in seeing our culture with fresh eyes.” (Daniel H. Pink, author of “A Whole New Mind” – see summary below.)
A program and book for multipotential entrepreneurs. Author Emilie Wapnick: “Would I have to settle on a “practical job” and pursue my various passions on the side or choose among my interests and just commit to one thing? Both options made me my heart ache… I knew I could be doing more – that I had more to offer the world. Renaissance Business is the story of how I brought all of my interests together, and how you can do the same.”
This is a program to “use your multipotentiality so that instead of it being an obstacle to income, it becomes fuel for income.” It includes: a “PDF that takes you from scratch, through the process of building a business around your interests plus worksheets and exercises to lighten the load and simplify the brainstorming process.”
“IDEO, the world’s leading design firm, is the brain trust that’s behind some of the more brilliant innovations of the past 20 years–from the Apple mouse, the Polaroid i-Zone instant camera, and the Palm V to the “fat” toothbrush for kids and a self-sealing water bottle for dirt bikers. Not surprisingly, companies all over the world have long wondered what they could learn from IDEO, to come up with better ideas for their own products, services, and operations.
“In this terrific book from IDEO general manager Tom Kelley (brother of founder David Kelley), IDEO finally delivers–but thankfully not in the step-by-step, flow-chart-filled “process speak” of most how-you-can-do-what-we-do business books.” [Amazon summary]
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Biography: “Austin Kleon is a writer and artist. He’s the author of Steal Like An Artist and Newspaper Blackout. His work has been featured on 20×200, NPR’s Morning Edition, PBS Newshour, and in The Wall Street Journal. He speaks about creativity, visual thinking, and being an artist online for organizations such as SXSW, TEDx, and The Economist.”
“We tend to think of creativity in terms reminiscent of the ancient muses: divinely-inspired, unpredictable, and bestowed upon a lucky few. But when our jobs challenge us to be creative on demand, we must develop novel, useful ideas that will keep our organizations competitive. The Myths of Creativity demystifies the processes that drive innovation.
“Based on the latest research into how creative individuals and firms succeed, David Burkus highlights the mistaken ideas that hold us back and shows us how anyone can embrace a practical approach, grounded in reality, to finding the best new ideas, projects, processes, and programs.”
Also see my article: David Burkus Highlights Myths of Creativity – with quotes and a brief audio interview with him, plus video.
Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative
by Ken Robinson
“It is often said that education and training are the keys to the future. They are, but a key can be turned in two directions. Turn it one way and you lock resources away, even from those they belong to.
“Turn it the other way and you release resources and give people back to themselves. To realize our true creative potential—in our organizations, in our schools and in our communities—we need to think differently about ourselves and to act differently towards each other. We must learn to be creative.” — Ken Robinson
Sparks of Genius, The 13 Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People
by Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein
“Are there special thinking strategies that characterize genius? How did the Einsteins, Freuds, Picassos, Galileos, and Mozarts come up with their ideas? The Root-Bernsteins, Robert (physiology professor, Michigan State Univ.) and Michele (history and writing teacher), have been studying creativity for more than a decade. Using results from these studies, they have identified the following 13 thinking tools to help us tap into our own personal genius and free our minds to be more creative: observing, imaging, abstracting, recognizing patterns, forming patterns, analogizing, body thinking, empathizing, dimensional thinking, modeling, playing, transforming, and synthesizing.” [Library Journal]
The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, by Twyla Tharp
[Amazon.com description:] “All it takes to make creativity a part of your life is the willingness to make it a habit. It is the product of preparation and effort, and is within reach of everyone. Whether you are a painter, musician, businessperson, or simply an individual yearning to put your creativity to use, The Creative Habit provides you with thirty-two practical exercises based on the lessons Twyla Tharp has learned in her remarkable thirty-five-year career.”
The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, by Lewis Hyde
“Hyde talks about creativity very much in the sense of a gift-from-outside, although he’s careful with his language: he traces the root of the word ‘genius,’ for example, to the literal name once given to the creative spirit – artists, he says, once thought of ‘genius’ as something outside of themselves, an entity that needed to be worshiped and nurtured if the artist wanted to receive its gifts. Now we worship genius in a very different way…
“But Hyde also points to the fact that a vast majority of artist can talk about a time when they felt essentially ‘possessed’ by their art, when their training and skill certainly helped them but were not, in fact, the driving force of creation. Instead, he notes, many artists feel as if they became channels for a work. That isn’t something that can be learned. Having experienced that myself, I find it hard not to agree with him.”
Artist Jericha Senyak – from her comment on my post “Myths of Creativity and Creators – How They Hold Us Back.”
From Artella – a 100-page eBook “featuring an inside look at the lives and art of 29 fascinating artists.”
Download a copy FREE.
Also sign up for Artella’s “inspiring publication full of art projects, creative writing tips, interviews with artists, and fun downloadable goodies!”
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The Creative Life: True Tales of Inspiration, by Julia Cameron
Cameron “shows readers how to use their creative hearts and minds to cultivate lives that nourish and sustain their art. Through beautifully drawn scenes from her own life, as well as the lives of the many artists around her, Cameron reveals that creativity flourishes during the quiet pauses in our lives-and that it is only when we allow ourselves to slow down and savor life that we discover ways to depict it sensitively and poetically in our art. By opening the curtain on her own life and the lives of the artists who surround her, Cameron reveals a world rich with creative possibility.”
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Artful Making: What Managers Need to Know About How Artists Work, by Robert Austin, Lee Devin, Eric Schmidt (Foreword)
“Artful Making offers the first proven, research-based framework for engineering ingenuity and innovation. This book is the result of a multi-year collaboration between Harvard Business School professor Robert Austin and leading theatre director and playwright Lee Devin.
“Together, they demonstrate striking structural similarities between theatre artistry and production and today’s business projects–and show how collaborative artists have mastered the art of delivering innovation “on cue,” on immovable deadlines and budgets.”
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Orchestrating Collaboration at Work: Using Music, Improv, Storytelling, and Other Arts to Improve Teamwork, by Arthur VanGundy, Linda Naiman
“Orchestrating Collaboration at Work is an activity book for trainers, coaches, mediators and facilitators, who want to use the arts to create transformative learning experiences in organizations. All 70 activities are crafted using arts-based principles that offer new insights and skills development in creativity, communication, teamwork, and collaborative leadership.
“Painting, poetry, storytelling, music, and improvisational theater offer innovative and transformative learning experiences. You can use them as quick icebreakers or brainjuicers at meetings or training sessions, and as a means of mediating dialogue to stimulate employee engagement. You do NOT have to be an artist to use this book’s offerings.”
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A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, by Daniel H. Pink.
“Lawyers. Accountants. Radiologists. Software engineers. That’s what our parents encouraged us to become when we grew up. But Mom and Dad were wrong. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind. The era of “left brain” dominance, and the Information Age that it engendered, are giving way to a new world in which “right brain” qualities-inventiveness, empathy, meaning-predominate.
“That’s the argument at the center of this provocative and original book, which uses the two sides of our brains as a metaphor for understanding the contours of our times.”
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The Art of Business: Make All Your Work a Work of Art, by David McIntosh.
“For many, work is the ultimate four-letter word, the embodiment of all that is mundane. For respected business writers Stan Davis and David McIntosh, work is an opportunity to find beauty, meaning, enjoyment, balance, and longevity.
“How? By treating one’s work or business as art. According to The Art of Business, people get more satisfaction from creating something than from doing something. Purpose, mastery, and permanence are hallmarks of good work, whether in the arts or in business.”
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“This provocative book reveals why sitting in front of a light box can increase your creativity more than listening to a Bach concerto as example. The author Shelley H. Carson, a Harvard psychologist, explains that creativity isn’t something only scientists, investors, artists, writers, and musicians enjoy; in fact, all of us use our creative brains every day at home and at work.
“Each of us has the ability to increase our mental functioning and creativity by learning to move flexibly among several brain states.”
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The Psychology of Creative Writing, by Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD, James C. Kaufman, PhD.
“The Psychology of Creative Writing takes a scholarly, psychological look at multiple aspects of creative writing, including the creative writer as a person, the text itself, the creative process, the writer’s development, the link between creative writing and mental illness, the personality traits of comedy and screen writers, and how to teach creative writing.
“This book will appeal to psychologists interested in creativity, writers who want to understand more about the magic behind their talents, and educated laypeople who enjoy reading, writing, or both.”
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My Teeming Brain: Creativity in Creative Writers, by Jane Piirto, PhD.
“This book considers the psychology of the creative writer. Chapters on the personality, the creative process, and the practical knowledge required in writers are set within a talent development framework. The book includes a study of 160 contemporary U.S. writers that explores the themes in their lives. Written in readable prose, this book is a must for those who want to be creative writers and for those who teach them.
“Hundreds of books have been written about how to write, but few have bee written about what writers are like.” [Review by publisher, Hampton Press.]
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Understanding Creativity, by Jane Piirto, PhD
“Understanding Creativity offers advice on how to plan adventures, value work without “evaluation”, set a creative tone, and incorporate creativity values into one’s own family or classroom culture.
“Readers will learn how to spot talent through a child’s behaviors and how to encourage practice. Real-life examples of artists, musicians, dancers, entrepreneurs, architects, and authors are included.”
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Creativity for 21st Century Skills: How to Embed Creativity into the Curriculum, by Jane Piirto, PhD
“Describes what many creative people really do when they create. It focuses on the practical applications of a theoretical approach to creativity training the author has developed. Many suggestions for enhancing creativity focus on ideas that are over 60 years old.
“This new approach may be helpful for those seeking to develop 21st Century Skills of creativity. Five core attitudes (Naiveté, Risk-taking, Self-Discipline, Tolerance for Ambiguity, and Group Trust), Seven I’s (Inspiration, Intuition, Improvisation, Imagination, Imagery, Incubation, and Insight), and several General Practices-the use of ritual, meditation, solitude, exercise, silence, and a creative attitude to the process of life, with corresponding activities, are described, discussed, and illustrated.”
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The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield
“Drawing on his many years’ experience as a writer, Pressfield (The Legend of Bagger Vance) presents his first nonfiction work, which aims to inspire other writers, artists, musicians, or anyone else attempting to channel his or her creative energies. The focus is on combating resistance and living the destiny that Pressfield believes is gifted to each person by an all-powerful deity.
“While certainly of great value to frustrated writers struggling with writer’s block, Pressfield’s highly personal philosophy, soundly rooted in his own significant life challenges, has merit for anyone frustrated in fulfilling his or her life purpose.” [Library Journal]
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Writing from the Inside Out: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within, by Dennis Palumbo, M.A., MFT
“Dennis Palumbo provides a sense of community in the isolation of writing, of knowing that we are not alone on this uncharted and privileged journey. He shows us that our shared struggles, fears, and triumphs are the very soul of the art and craft of writing.” – Bruce Joel Rubin, screenwriter, “Ghost” and “Deep Impact.” /
“Writer’s block. Procrastination. Loneliness. Doubt. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Just plain…fear. What does it mean if you struggle with these feelings on a daily basis?It means you re a writer. Written with a unique empathy and deep insight by someone who is both a fellow writer and a noted psychotherapist, Writing from the Inside Out sheds light on the inner life of the writer and shows you positive new ways of thinking about your art and yourself.”
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Creative Recovery: A Complete Addiction Treatment Program That Uses Your Natural Creativity, by Eric Maisel, PhD and Susan Raeburn, PhD.
“For writers, artists, musicians, and creators in every field, this book offers a complete addiction recovery program specifically designed for the creative person. Full of explanations and exercises, this book presents ways to use your own innate creative abilities in service of your recovery and at each stage of the recovery process.”
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by Eric Maisel, PhD
“In his decades as a psychotherapist and creativity coach, Eric Maisel has found a common thread behind what often gets labeled “writer’s block,” “procrastination,” or “stage fright.” It’s the particular anxiety that, paradoxically, keeps creators from doing, completing, or sharing the work they are driven toward. This “creative anxiety” can take the form of avoiding the work, declaring it not good enough, or failing to market it — and it can cripple creators…But Maisel has learned what sets successful creators apart. He shares these strategies here, including artist-specific stress management; how to work despite bruised egos, day jobs, and other inevitable frustrations; and what not to do to deal with anxiety. Implementing these 24 lessons replaces the pain of not creating with the profound rewards of free artistic self-expression.”
Brainstorm: Harnessing the Power of Productive Obsessions
by Eric Maisel, PhD and Ann Maisel
“It’s true: a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Yet that’s what we do when we spend our weekend — and neurons — reliving a workplace squabble, spend a family visit chewing over childhood issues, or spend hours beating ourselves up when someone brings one of our own long-held (but never worked on) ideas to fruition. This kind of obsessing gets us, like a hamster on a wheel, nowhere. But as noted creativity expert Eric Maisel asserts, obsessing productively leads to fulfillment rather than frustration. A productive obsession, whether an idea for a novel, a business, or a vaccine, is chosen deliberately and pursued with determination. In this provocative, practical guide, Maisel coaches you to use the tendency to obsess to your creative advantage, fulfilling both your promise and your promises to yourself.”
by Julia Cameron.
“The act of writing, the aiming at getting it right, is pure thrill, pure process, as exciting as drawing back a bow. Hitting a creative bull’s-eye, a sentence that precisely expresses what you see shimmering on the horizon – those sentences are worth the chase – but the chase itself, the things you catch out of the corner of your eye, that’s worth something too. I love it when I write well, but I love it when I write, period.” ~ Julia Cameron.
Related resource: Julia Cameron Live online course and artists’ community
“Julia Cameron is credited with founding a movement that has enabled millions to realize their creative dreams. Now after selling almost 4 million copies of The Artist’s Way and more than two decades of teaching her creativity tools around the world in lecture and workshop form, Julia is taking her teaching online.”
Also see page with more Resources for Developing Creativity and Innovation.
And for a final title, my own book:
Developing Multiple Talents: The personal side of creative expression
“Part book about creativity, part compendium of useful tidbits, quotations and research results, and part annotated bibliography, this is a wildly useful and highly entertaining resource.” – Stephanie S. Tolan, fiction writer and consultant on the needs of the gifted.
“Packed full of insights and resources for the creative life, Developing Multiple Talents offers new ways to thrive as a creative person. Douglas Eby addresses many of the issues we face – fear, lack of confidence and focus – allowing the creative person to feel understood and ultimately empowered.” – Cynthia Morris, Writing and creativity coach.
See more reviews, excerpts and links to purchase paperback, Kindle and PDF versions at the book site: Developing Multiple Talents.
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Reading widely – not just “creativity books” – can stimulate our creative thinking and passions.
One example: actor Michelle Williams – in this photo as Marilyn Monroe in “My Week With Marilyn.”
In our interview (years ago), Williams noted:
“For as long as I can remember, my father read voraciously to me when I was a kid. I grew up with William Faulkner and all these great, fabulous books, and I always wanted to be in those worlds…
“I lived in these fantasies of whatever it was, “Anna Karenina” or you name it, and I wanted to be there. So it was sort of a natural progression to want to become an actress, to live that out.”
Williams devoted months to researching Marilyn Monroe for her acclaimed performance in the movie. Producer Harvey Weinstein said “She watched and studied the movies and photos; she read every book, every biography…” – From my article Michelle Williams on Acting and Imagination.
[Monroe was also an avid reader - see my article Marilyn Monroe: Her complex Inner Life.]
An interview article notes, “When she manages to steal a little time for herself, Nicole Kidman sneaks a few minutes with one of the four or five books she always has going at once.”
“I love good coffee and just sort of lazing around reading. I have very diverse tastes in literature. I started reading when I was 4 and read War and Peace when I was 9.
“I’m just an obsessive reader, and I think that’s another reason I became an actor. It’s how I build characters in my head, and it’s how I’ve built my imagination.”
From Nicole Kidman: Actress, Mom, Women’s Advocate, WebMD.
Photo: Nicole Kidman as WWII correspondent Martha Gellhorn in HBO movie “Hemingway & Gellhorn.” There are a number of articles on my various sites with quotes by Kidman about being an artist, such as Intensity and Being Creative.
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Book image from Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium page: Digital Library Update.
Also see more books, articles and other resources: