9 Books Every Creative Person Should Read

Have you ever wondered why the laundry just suddenly HAS to get done on the very same day you have a short story deadline to meet? Or how about blaming that unfinished photography project on the rain/wind/humidity/time of day/bug that got trapped in your lens? Do you find your car suddenly needs an oil change every single time you’ve just placed a new blank canvas on your easel? Yeah, me too. So, what’s all that about anyway?

I’ll admit it: I’m not always my best creative self. I procrastinate, I multitask, I allow myself to get distracted, and sometimes I straight up hide from my work. Sometimes having a creative mind is just so INTIMIDATING! Especially when I think about all the other creative minds out there who are just so much better at being creative than I am (at least, sometimes it feels that way.) But as it turns out, even the most creative people sometimes need a little nudge of encouragement — as proven by these books.

The books on this list will inspire you, empower you, and guide you through the maze of creativity that leads to your most artistic and productive self. Here are nine books that every creative person must read immediately.

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

Artist Austin Kleon keeps it short and sweet in his bestselling Steal Like An Artist. Filled with bits of advice like: “If you ever find that you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room," and "Don't wait until you know who you are to get started," this little book will teach you to celebrate your favorite creative influences, learn from your artistic idols, and look for inspiration everywhere you go.

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The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

All art forms require discipline, but perhaps few require as much discipline as does dance. Dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp offers artists of all forms what might just be the most practical guide for cultivating a creative discipline ever written. In The Creative Habit she details the organization, dedication, and willpower needed to sustain a life dedicated to art, no matter what obstacles may come your way.

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Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

This collection of 10 letters is essential reading for any emerging creative mind. Filled with advice on living and loving, writing poetry, and developing your own personal code of ethics, Letters to a Young Poet is beautifully composed and overflowing with wisdom for anyone endeavoring the life of an artist.

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Bound for Glory by Woody Guthrie

Folk singer and activist Woody Guthrie's slightly fictionalized memoir, Bound for Glory, tells the story of the artist's early days — his Great Depression-era childhood, his young adulthood as a hobo who rode the rails across the United States, and his days of performing before he made it big. This memoir is all about the makings of a truly great artist, and demonstrates that a creative mind can be cultivated just about anywhere.

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Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Not only a lesson in avoiding procrastination, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird is part memoir, part step-by-step guide through a life of creativity: by completing tasks one step at a time. Although Lamott's book speaks specifically to writers, her words of encouragement, pieces of advice, and frequent hilarity make this book the perfect helpmate for any creative person.

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An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison

It is said that we teach best the things we need to learn the most. For Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, a scientist specializing in manic-depressive illness, this meant learning to manage the emotional highs and lows of the bipolar disease she not only researched, but personally experienced alongside her patients. In An Unquiet Mind Jamison explores the rollercoaster that is bipolar disorder — not just the depression, but also the creative bursts that prompt so many patients to reject medication. This one will definitely make you think.

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Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland

The authors of Art & Fear keep it real with readers, digging deep into the ins and outs of the creative life: how artists work, where that never-ending urge to procrastinate really comes from, and why so many artists give up on their creative projects too soon. If you're a creative spirit who's ever felt like you're just not talented enough to "make it big" this book is definitely the nod of encouragement you need.

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I Am That Girl by Alexis Jones

I Am That Girl is your go-to guide for feeling empowered, dreaming fearlessly, and becoming the woman you've always wanted to be. Author Alexis Jones has helped girls all over the world to think about their greatest passions in order to discern what their true purposes in life are. Think of this book as your own personal cheerleader.

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Naked by David Sedaris

David Sedaris writes with an "I'm-in-pain-I'm-laughing-so-hard" hilarity. Filled with personal anecdotes about childhood and family, weddings and funerals, and so much more, Naked tells the story of one writer's creative life: on the page, in his imagination, and of course, out in the wildly amusing world. Sedaris proves that literally anything can be used as inspiration for art.

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Image: Austin Kleon/flickr