Creativity Guides

There are a lot of great books out there about writing—about creating characters, structuring plots, or crafting settings and dialogue.

But lately I’ve been reading more books about creativity in general, about the elusive process of making things up and building them into something to be shared. There are many more creative outlets than just drawing, but so many people believe that they are not and can never be creative. That it’s something you either already are or never will be.

Creativity guides are there to help explore and enhance your connection to your own creative processes, whether you write every day or have never picked up an artistic utensil of any kind. Often they include various exercises to get you started, while others focus more on encouragement and even a kind of therapy.

Here are my top three creativity guides (some especially for writers):

Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path by Nancy Pickard and Lynn Lott—As the title indicates, this is definitely a book for writers, though the creative process it delineates probably could apply to most artistic endeavors. This book focuses on the emotional states that the writer moves through: Unhappiness, Wanting, Commitment, Wavering, Letting Go, Immersion, Fulfillment (I, for example, am stuck in the “Wavering” phase for eternity). I found this book to be very encouraging for following your dreams and embracing your passion. However, to offer an alternate view, I read one review on Goodreads that cautioned readers about the “mental health” advice the book provides, which I agree should never take the place of seeking personal professional help. The best thing this book offers is the feeling that you are not alone in whichever phase you find yourself; others have been just as stuck, uncertain, and confused as you are. Whether this book can get you out of that phase depends on how you respond to its suggestions, but just feeling less alone in your creativity is a great help.

The Muse is In: An Owner’s Manual to Your Creativity by Jill Badonsky—This book was really just a delight. The first half or so is a more general guide to creativity that I found very encouraging, supportive, and nonjudgmental. The second half is a list of prompts for every day of the year, many of which seemed fun and easy to follow (but since I had the book on loan from the library, I couldn’t really see them through). But just exploring the first half alone left me feeling better about seeking creative outlets however I wished, which is often half the battle in pursuing a creative project. Every page offers something encouraging, and the visual style is very fun. I heartily recommend it!

Fearless Creating by Eric Maisel—Eric Maisel has written many books on writing and creativity. This one was my favorite. It was actually one of the first creativity guides where I was actually compelled to stop and do the exercises, all of which were able to be accomplished right then and there (except for one involving a potato which I did not feel like going out to buy, but I “honored” the exercise using an ice pack… if you read the book, maybe that will make sense). Like Seven Steps, this book also breaks down the creative process into phases and addresses the various emotional difficulties of each, and I related to most of the problems and blocks he described. Though I occasionally detected hints of a disdain for commercial or “fun” work in favor of “art,” it was a very worthwhile look at the creative process and I ultimately felt very empowered.

If you want to check these out, visit your library! Even if they don’t have them, try ordering them through “Interlibrary Loan” (libraries are truly amazing resources). Or, if you have the cash and are willing to take a chance, support these authors by picking up these books. I think they are all worth a read if you want to improve your creativity, or just feel better about yourself and your passion.

The ultimate message I found in these books—we are all in this together… so let’s create!

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About J. Sevick

Just write.
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