We have all been there. Ideas are not coming. Motivation is gone – the tank is empty. What do we do? Where do we turn? For me, I have a series of books that. I always keep close. These are books I’ve read several times and always get something out of. Here is my list of my top five favorite books on creativity.

My 5 Favorite Books on Creativity


#5Steal Like an Artist

Steal Like an Artist
Austin Kleon

This is the most lighthearted of the group. This is a great read if you are looking for wisdom served with a humor.

Favorite quotes

  • “If you ever find that you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.”

“Be curious about the world in which you live. Look things up. Chase down every reference. Go deeper than anybody else–that’s how you’ll get ahead.”
  • “The best advice is not to write what you know, it’s to write what you like. Write the kind of story you like best—write the story you want to read. The same principle applies to your life and your career:”

“Read deeply. Stay open. Continue to wonder.”
  • “The thing is: It takes a lot of energy to be creative. You don’t have that energy if you waste it on other stuff.”

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A Beautiful Anarchy

A Beautiful Anarchy
David DuChemin

David DuChemin is one of my favorite photography writers. I make a point to try to read all his books. He always has great inspiration and practical content which is often a hard mix but he does it beautifully.

Favorite Quotes

  • “The magic rarely happens within our comfort zone, but outside it, on the ragged, scary edge, where we have to fight like hell to keep from drowning in the unknown.”
  • “Courage is not an absence of fear, but an act of the will to move forward in the presence of fear. Fear whispers, “You might…” Courage rebuffs it with, “Sure, but….” To seek a fearless life is not the same as seeking a life of courage. If we’re talking about story, which is about nothing if not life, no one gives a damn about fearlessness. Very few great stories move forward with a fearless hero. Why would they?”
  • “It is the daily task of the creative to be curious and collect dots. The most creative people I know fill their brains, their idea factories, with as much raw material as they can. They have voracious appetites.”
  • “The photograph I make might thrill me, or it might disappoint, but the joy of holding the camera, or learning something new, or allowing the disappointing image to lead me to a better one, will never be mine if I allow my doubts to stop me trying.”
  • “This won’t work,” is defeatist. “This probably won’t work,” is self-fulfilling. “Let’s see what happens,” is ripe with possibility.

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#3Big Magic

Big Magic
Elizabeth Gilbert

I read this book last year. I had seen a ted talk by Elizabeth Gilbert and loved her quirky sense of humor. This book did not disappoint. It’s still new to me so time will tell if it stays in rotation but it’s worth the read

  • “Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”
  • “Be the weirdo who dares to enjoy.”
  • “Anyhow, the older I get, the less impressed I become with originality. These days, I’m far more moved by authenticity. Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious, but authenticity has quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.”
  • “As long as I’m still moving in that direction—toward wonder–then I know I will always be fine in my soul, which is where it counts. And since creativity is still the most effective way for me to access wonder, I choose it.”

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#2War of Art

The War of Art
Steven Pressfield

This book was recommended to me over and over again. When I finally gave in and read it I was like oh that’s why. This is a great book to re-read every year.

  • “Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”
  • “We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.”
  • “Of any activity you do, ask yourself: If I were the last person on earth, would I still do it?”
  • “The artist cannot look to others to validate his efforts or his calling. If you don’t believe me, ask Van Gogh, who produced masterpiece after masterpiece and never found a buyer in his whole life.”
  • “The professional loves her work. She is invested in it wholeheartedly. But she does not forget that the work is not her.”

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#1Walking on Water

Walking on Water
Madeleine L’Engle

This is the book I would pick if I could only read one book for the rest of my life. The copy I have of this book is at least 15 years old, highlighted, marked, commented in, and just well loved.

  • “But unless we are creators we are not fully alive. What do I mean by creators? Not only artists, whose acts of creation are the obvious ones of working with paint of clay or words. Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living. Creativity is not limited to the arts, or having some kind of important career.”
  • “When the work takes over, then the artist is enabled to get out of the way, not to interfere. When the work takes over, then the artist listens.”
  • “The discipline of creation, be it to paint, compose, write, is an effort towards wholeness.”
  • “Stories are able to help us to become more whole, to become Named. And Naming is one of the impulses behind all art; to give a name to the cosmos, we see despite all the chaos.”
  • “In the act of creativity, the artist lets go the self-control which he normally clings to and is open to riding the wind.”

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