I recently checked in with a writing client who feels stuck. She has three young kids, a full-time corporate writing job, has struggled with the aftereffects of a bout with Covid, and 2022 really kicked some dust in her path. All of this added up to a lack of creative energy (no surprise!) and I recommended that she take a breather. In contrast with my previous post, forcing yourself to write when the writing feels like drudgery is not a good idea.
But I think visiting some inspirational exercises can be beneficial, as they may unlock the door to the prison that has captured your creative energy.
I recommended to my writer the book that helped me back when I was in a similar spot, Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY, and realized that you all might benefit from hearing my 7 top recommended reads for any artist who needs a boost, a leg up, a way forward.
You can find and purchase all of these books in my Bookshop, here.
My Top Seven Inspirational Reads
Let’s start with THE ARTIST’S WAY. Cameron uses spirituality to guide the artist’s creativity. What I love about this book are the exercises. They are at once practical and uplifting, and if you try doing one each day, they will raise and comfort your soul and spur you to creative thinking.
Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD is not so much instructional as it is ruminative. A writing instructor and author of multiple works of fiction and nonfiction, Lamott is witty and the prose is readable and real. It’s a classic for good reason.
THE CREATIVE HABIT enunciates Twyla Tharp’s kick-in-the-pants approach to creativity. This is the book for you if you need to be encouraged to make your art a daily habit, a ritual, by a dancer who knows what it’s like to not want to get up at 5:30 AM to work her body – but who does it anyway. Every day. And look at the result.
In ART AND FEAR, David Bayles and Ted Orland take a very different approach. They acknowledge the destructive forces of the inner critic. For some of you creatives, facing your demon is the way to send it packing, and if that’s what you need, this is your book.
Elizabeth Gilbert, the highly successful author of fiction, wrote BIG MAGIC as an homage to the muse. The title tells it all – creativity is sparked by some kind of incandescent magic that we must be ready to accept. It’s out there, she says: now, go and be awake to it.
Another classic, WRITING DOWN THE BONES by Natalie Goldberg is more of a practical approach than an ethereal one. She instructs as well as cajoles. Her exercises are not linear as in Cameron’s book, but embedded in advice.
Finally, Kendra Levin’s THE HERO IS YOU takes us back to a book filled with practical exercises. Using the Campbell Hero’s Journey archetypes as guideposts, Levin walks the reader through the Journey itself, to help any creative reach the conclusion: bringing your work to life.
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