Whether you’re a job seeker looking to break into a creative industry, or an artist or writer encountering problems with your work, you’ve probably already discovered that creativity can be a difficult thing to learn. It seems paradoxical, after all, to follow rules on how to be more free-thinking, or to put designated time and effort into being more spontaneous. How does one learn, in a predictable manner, to build a skill that’s not really a skill at all, a thing whose essence is its very unpredictability?
Fortunately, these authors and creativity experts—many of them creators in their own right—have found ways around this problem. Their books lay out guidelines and offer wisdom on accessing your creative side and channeling it to achieve your goals.
The psychology of creativity
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s bestselling book Flow analyzed the psychology and science behind “flow”—that state of being in harmony with the world that many creators, athletes, and achievers describe as being central to their success. In Creativity, Csikszentmihalyi applies similar methods of inquiry to the study of creativity, drawing the conclusion that “flow” and creativity share much in common. His book identifies circumstances and tactics proven to bring out creative instincts; testimonies from thinkers, artists, and scientists provide additional guidance.
Unconventional advice for unconventional people
Steal Like an Artist is based on a speech Austin Kleon, an artist and writer, once gave to a class of graduating college students (here’s the TED version). His pithy but entirely unconventional advice has become a mainstay for creative people of all types seeking advice. The tips are both practical (hobbies are important!) and reassuring (don’t wait to be your “true” self), but the collection as a whole packs a pure dose of inspiration.
Creativity as a process of unlearning
Ken Robinson is an advisor on education policy who has long argued that schools, with their institutionalized teaching methods and simplistic metrics for success, are stunting young peoples’ creativity. His TED talk, “How Schools Kill Creativity,” is the most viewed video in TED history. In Out of Our Minds, he expands on this idea—citing examples of world-famous creators who went against the grain of traditional schooling, laying out methods by which to bring out one’s creative instincts, and calling for an academic “revolution” that will reestablish the importance of creativity, spontaneity, and free-thinking in education.
Even the greats have faced block
Any creative person knows that block can be a killer. And though the Web is full of helpful tips, sometimes the best remedy is listening to wisdom from successful creators who have faced block before and got through it. In Creative Block, Danielle Krysa, who blogs at The Jealous Curator, interviews more than 50 artists working in a range of mediums about their experience with block and their advice on resolving it. The tips are diverse and very often wacky, but they manage to make the prospect of getting over block—usually such a dismal endeavor—sound fun.
5. Get It Done
Creativity and discipline: not mutually exclusive
There’s a common myth that creativity is a precious, ephemeral substance that slips away any time you try to harness it for productive good or submit it to discipline. In Get it Done, Sam Bennett explodes that myth, showing not only how the Muse can be tamed, but how you can learn to manage your creative side in just 15 minutes a day.