Seventeen books to inspire your creativity

This ecclectic collection inspires me and teaches me to experiment and grow.

People know I’m a writer, but I am also an avid reader. Reading fuels the writing, and writing pushes my reading.

In my writing workshops, based on my workbook Writing the 7 Senses,I explore creative writing in a fun, playful way. Drawing on all the senses and humour, music, action and photography, I encourage writers to explore and just let the words flow.

But where do I find my inspiration for writing and creativity? That is a long and complicated answer, stemming all the way back to my childhood. But one way of answering it may be to share the books about writing and the creative life that have inspired me, and continue to do so.  

I was going to write a list of 5, but once I started listing these wonderful books, I couldn’t stop!

Without further ado, here is list of 17 books about writing, creativity, creative thinking, forming creative habits, or taking steps to live a courageous, creative life. Note: if you click on any of the the titles it will take you to my affiliate shop on the UK’s Bookshop.org. More information below.

This will always be the touchstone book for so many writers, artists, and others who want to live more creatively and let inspiration flow. Originally released in the 1970s by a woman who worked in the fast-paced corridors of Hollywood, Julia Cameron wrote this for herself and close friends who were experiencing burnout, addiction or some kind of creative block. It is now a classic with millions of copies sold, and for good reason; everyone who takes on the steps of this book is shaped by it somehow, but you cannot predict how.

This book is about writing and inspiration, but also about so much more: choosing a path that is open to inspiration and the magic even if you cannot predict which way it will take you. Also about not letting chances for a creative life pass you by.

One of the most practical books on this list, this book takes the elements of screenwriting and applies it to bestselling novels of every genre. It was recommended to me from the podcasts of the good people at the London Writers Salon, and many people find it surprisingly effective at helping their writing gain complexity and tension, and propelling the story forward.

  • Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro

I came across this book recently, although it has been out for some time and I think a second edition is coming this summer. The writing is heartfelt and strong, about drawing from life for the most authentic, truest version of your writing.

A classic book about getting started, falling down, and getting back up again. Lamont is insightful, warm, funny and generous with her reflections.

I’ve recently discovered these works of poet Ross Gay from the US. A mixed-race man now teaching in Bloomington, Indiana, his reflections over two years is focused on the small joys, despite or perhaps because of all the distressing news at this time. Segments are laugh-out-loud funny, and many of the essays (or essay-ettes, as he puts it) are very touching, whether they be about family, about plants and gardening, or about social and race issues in America today.

Other writing classics or memoirs by authors who need no introduction from me:

Below are some other books I’ve read lately (an eclectic collection, I admit). They are books that have inspired me to think about living a creative life and living courageously. Some contain quite practical steps too:

Written by a professional improv comedian, I felt that this book of reflections and exercises really stretched me as a writer.

This classic book is actually quite profound when you delve into it. It takes courage to move forward with your dreams. In practical terms, but also philosophically, fear is holding many of us back.

This book is about how large goals and important changes stem from small decisions and actions that can be made into a habit, starting today.

Two beautiful small books that are all about how to live an artist’s life despite any set-backs. They encourage us to be proud and express ourselves, in authentic ways that may be big or on the smaller scale.

So… a nice round number of 17 books that have inspired me, improved my writing and my life.

Have you read any of these? Do you swear by one, or refuse to read another? I’d love to hear what you think.

Please note, if you click on these links to Bookshop.org.uk, it is to my affiliate store. Shopping on Bookshop.org is a way to support independent bookshops, while still getting free delivery. If you go ahead and purchase through my link, I earn a small amount.

If you want to learn more about Writing the 7 Senses, my workbook is available in notebook form for UK residents directly from my author’s shop here. It has fifteen different exercises that can be done in any order, emphasizing the quirky and playful. Or if you live abroad or prefer the ebook, Writing the 7 Senses is available from Amazon here.

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