I am an avid dabbler and an even more spectacular incubator. It takes a long time for me to build up my creative impulse, and the best way for me to spend that time is through my absolute favorite form of consumption: reading.
Reading gives me the time and space to learn more about a topic that I am fascinated with, to become more confident in my own ideas, and to be inspired to move on to the next level of creation: actually making something.
I have gathered a few of my favorite titles to read when I need to super-charge creatively.
My favorite authors.
This is a broad group, but when I feel blocked, I like to return to my own favorite, familiar writers – like Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison, Charlotte Brontë, Lemony Snicket, and Thomas Pynchon, just to name a few – who remind me what an amazing, fascinating, horribly wonderful place this big wide world can be. I’m a writer, so books are relevant to my work, but I imagine reading the notes, thoughts, letters, lyrics, etc. of an artist you love can be helpful whatever your medium.
This is one of the best little books I’ve read about the unwritten truth of art – that it’s all about theft. In those moments when I feel like every idea I have has been done before, Steal Like An Artist reminds me that imitation is the start of any creative masterpiece. One of my greatest powers as a dabbler and an artist is my ability to pull together what I already know under my own creative fingerprint.
Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is one of the only books about the craft of writing that gets me back to the blank page after a long time away. From the very start, Lamott becomes your best friend who loves to hate to love writing so damn much. Usually by the time I finish the Introduction, I have the beginnings of a draft in my head. If you want to write, read this book!
This is actually on my To Read list, but it’s the gold standard for finding your own creative path. I have actually practiced Cameron’s much-touted daily pages using the site 750words.com. It’s a quick and easy way to get your thoughts out every morning and redirect your mind to yourself and your true desires. The daily pages are also a fabulous way to leave the world of research and incubation and get back to the heart of the matter–making work.
Along those lines, reading can be a great procrastination tool to distract you from the harder work of making.
After you read something that touches you, it’s important to leave the incubation phase and get to the creation phase. Making Ideas Happen can help you get you there. Scott Belsky lays out the best way to get from idea to execution in this book about how to act first and worry about the details later.
Which books do you read to get you going creatively? What does your own creative incubation look like and how do you escape it? Tell us in the comments! And if you’d like to read The Artist’s Way together, hit me up on Twitter @courteneyervin.