Welcome to the first post on sets of books that focus on a specific subject. I’ve called the series Connect The Dots because it allows me to share 5 books that can be read sequentially, going from one to the other naturally, much like drawing an actual connect-the-dots figure. Like so many of us, I have always turned to books for answers. Yes, we have the internet but, because I was a teenager when computers were first making their appearance in homes, I still tend to think of books as authority. This Connect The Dots post focuses on 5 books on creativity.
The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines creativity as “the use of skill and imagination to produce something new or to produce art.” Here is a short video from PBS that explains the four stages of creativity:
Personal Notes on Creativity
It’s been my experience that, just like the video mentioned, there is a process to creativity but there is also a strong emotional component. When I have embarked on a creative project, I cycle almost constantly between uncertainty, fear, excitement, being in the ‘flow’, resistance, and an underlying, dogged need for every step to be perfect before I progress to the next. At the beginning, I am more uncertain about where the project is headed as well as fearful that I’m unequal to the task. The fear has lessened with time and experience but there is an anxiety that I have now recognized as part of my personal process. The anxiety need not be restricted to the beginning of the project and may show up anytime like the most unwanted guest. Even though I may care deeply about the project, I may procrastinate; battling against this resistance is part of my creative process. There is a tipping point where the fear and resistance – I have come to realize this is my Island Of Safety Where Nothing Awful Happens Because I Am In My Comfort Zone And Not Attempting Anything New– are outweighed by the magic of creating something. Once I move past the tipping point, I work at discipline: showing up to do the work, doing the work for the time I committed to, taking time away to rest, and repeat. I have found this to be the most rewarding stage. This is not to say that the work is going to be fantastic or successful or neither. It just means being engaged in something that you love doing is its own reward (“The journey is the reward.- Steve Jobs; there is a Hindi word that I keep coming back to: sadhana, a word that combines discipline and the soul’s calling.)
Obviously, people may experience this differently: some people are less afraid than others to share what they’ve created; others, like me, struggle with needing a project to be perfect (or what we believe to be perfect) before we share it. Whatever your process, it’s the one you should familiarize yourself with. This allow you to recognize and be supportive of your efforts, to be kinder to yourself as you set out on a creative journey. Ultimately, creativity, whether it’s to solve a scientific problem or make art, asks us to be brave, authentic, and to be comfortable with our vulnerability.
The 5 Must-Read Books On Creativity
The 5 books are: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic; Dr. Brené Brown‘s The Gifts Of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are; Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity; Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles; and Rollo May’s Courage To Create. If I had to place them in reading order, like a true numerical connect-the-dots, I would suggest starting with 1️⃣ Rollo May’s Courage To Create. Explore and learn more about the mystery and mysticism of creativity with 2️⃣Big Magic. And then start your own experiments with creativity by showing up to Julia Cameron’s exercises in 3️⃣The Artist’s Way. 4️⃣The War of Art is fourth on the list and is closely followed by 5️⃣The Gifts Of Imperfection for the times you are battling with procrastination, perfection, or both.
Bonus: I also really enjoyed reading and learning from Phil Stutz and Barry Michels’ books The Tools, 5 Tools to Help You Find Courage, Creativity, and Willpower–and Inspire You to Live Life in Forward Motion and Coming Alive: 4 Tools to Defeat Your Inner Enemy, Ignite Creative Expression & Unleash Your Soul’s Potential.
Share your thoughts and recommendations in the Comments section below. Thanks, and have a wonderful day!
More in the Connect the dots series on Bookended can be found here.