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Have you ever struggled to bring a creative vision to life? Welcome to the club. I’ve yet to meet a single human who hasn’t felt frustrated and overwhelmed by the creative process.
Lucky for us, there are entire books on this topic — books that can help you overcome those all-too-familiar creative obstacles of perfectionism, impostor syndrome, or feeling like you’re not good enough.
Books have always been and always will be a big part of my life. Everything I’ve done or overcome ties back to something I learned or was able to figure out thanks, in part, to a book. That’s why my team and I have curated a list of our top ten books on creativity for you below.
As a bonus, we also created a special episode of The Marie Forleo Podcast that we’re calling #ILovedThisBook: Creativity Edition. Think of it as a virtual book club between you, me, Team Forleo, and our community. You’ll hear excerpts from some of our favorite books and stories from our own creative journeys.You were born to create and contribute. Keep going. Click To Tweet
So make yourself a cup of something delicious, put on your cozy pants, and settle in for some good old fashioned book love.
We need artists, entrepreneurs, problem solvers, and writers like you to share your gifts with the world.
If you’re looking for fresh creative inspiration, this episode and the books listed below will help.
Download the podcast episode from wherever you love to listen or hit play below.
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10 Life-Changing Books to Read On Creativity
Whether you’re stuck in a creative rut or struggling with writer’s block, the books below will inspire you to keep creating. Team Forleo and I have hand-picked these books on creativity to remind you that your voice, perspective, and artistic expression matter — no matter what job you have or season of life you’re in.
If you’ve ever struggled with procrastination, writer’s block or self-doubt — The War of Art is a must-read. It’s one of my all-time favorite books about creativity and Steven Pressfield is truly extraordinary. Any time I’m terrified about a creative project I’m working on, The War of Art reminds me that these feelings are a normal part of the creative process — and then I keep going.
“On my bulletin board, over my desk, I have the last page of The War of Art and I read it every day. When I’m scared to write or express myself or that my work isn’t “worthy” or important — I just read that. It’s part of my work here, too. Our words matter.”
~ Heather F., Customer Happiness
Want more Steven? Watch him on MarieTV: How To Overcome Resistance & Why Talent Doesn’t Matter
If any part of you longs to make and do really cool things in this world — write, paint, cook, dance, sing, speak, produce, code, act, bake, or just bedazzle your toothbrush — read Big Magic.
It’s a treasure map to unleash your most creative and expressive life, and with Elizabeth Gilbert as your guide, you can’t go wrong.
“I was on the verge of giving up my writing dreams when I read Big Magic. I realized I needed to say to my creativity, “I’ll never force you to support me before you’re ready.” I started approaching my writing with a sense of playfulness, so instead of worrying about what was literary, I just wrote what I enjoyed. Reading Big Magic gave me permission to be patient with myself, which led me to an important realization: People love to praise youth when it comes to talent, particularly in the arts. So-and-so started playing piano at 4, so-and-so started dancing at 3, etc. There’s a market for child actors, models, musicians, and artists. But there’s NO market for child writers. There’s no point in feeling bad about myself for being 29 and not having a book out yet. It’s not too late and the past couple of years I’ve spent writing, I’ve only gotten better, more dedicated, and more joyful in my work.”
~ Mandy S., Customer Happiness
Want more Liz? Watch her incredible interview on MarieTV: What Elizabeth Gilbert Wants You To Know About Big Magic
Want to understand your creativity on a deeper level? The Artist’s Way will guide you through exercises, writing rituals, and self-discovery techniques that will help you become a better artist. Julia Cameron is a master teacher, and reading this book will transform your creative process.
“This book changed me in the sense that it’s helped me, repeatedly, to not feel like a weirdo for being the way I am or living the way I do, and instead it helps me to see the gifts and treasures I carry and how I must nurture them. It’s one of those books that makes you feel truly seen, understood, and supported in a way that you may never have before by anyone in your life. And that is such a gift.”
~ Julia M., Customer Happiness
Feel like an oddball? Embrace Your Weird is here for it. Felicia Day is a multi-faceted actress and creative who will challenge you to let go of old insecurities and become the creative force you were always meant to be. No matter what kind of creative outlet you enjoy, Embrace Your Weird will help you tap into creative reservoirs you didn’t know were there, and have fun doing it.
“I love how this book poses shifting your thoughts around anxiety and creativity, which is something I struggle with (“Is this ever going to be good enough??”). I have this quote written down in my notebook – “Next time there’s an anxiety-inducing task at hand, why not visualize doing it in front of someone who’s delighted at everything you do?” Plus I’m also a secret nerd and love Felicia from my Comic Con days … it’s all about being okay with being weird!”
~ Kelsey V., Project Manager
Got a love/hate relationship with writing? Anne Lamott is a bestselling author — but that doesn’t mean that her feelings on writing aren’t complicated.
Bird by Bird is about Anne’s experience as a writer, and how to handle the peaks and valleys that come with it.
“No idea has changed me more than Lamott’s take on “the shitty first draft.” When it comes to most writing, there are no magic formulas. Just helpful exercises and mindset shifts that stick with you enough so that when you sit down to write and you’re staring at the blank screen or blinking cursor, you remember that Anne told you that it was okay to write, “Mr. Poopy Pants” just to get something on the page. I swear, this single technique has helped me write and publish essays, work on my first novel and do my day job, all without the pressure to make things perfect. This book is also funny as hell, which is rare in the world of writing advice.”
~ Marian S., Copywriting
Letters to a Young Poet are letters for the creative soul. Rilke’s words are mystical and beautiful.
They will leave you marveling over the power of well-crafted, heartfelt words.
“I read Letters to a Young Poet as a teenager at a tender time after I’d lost my father and was questioning so much about reality. It felt as if Rilke was writing directly to my heart and easing all my worries. I felt recognized and hopeful for future treasures unknown. Those comforting letters told me to keep going, keep creating, and that words have the power to reach through time and transform lives.”
~ Jayasri C., Customer Happiness
Betty Edwards wanted all her students to learn how to draw successfully, and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is one of her educational masterpieces. It’s a drawing book for artists of any experience level. Best of all? It will train your brain to think more creatively.
“I found it on my grandparents’ bookshelf when I was little, and I think it’s what first implanted the idea that EVERYONE is creative (or at least has the potential to be), and that art isn’t this mysterious rare woo-woo thing that only select people get to participate in. That being an artist is more about learning how to really SEE, and it’s something that everyone can learn and benefit from. I was always really ‘artsy’ but also very analytical and left-brainy, and I feel like that book spoke to my full self in a way that other drawing books never did. ALSO serves as a really great introduction to tons of basic art/design principles like white space, proportion, etc.”
~ Meg L., Design
Doubt that you have what it takes to bring your creative vision to life? Grace Bonney’s In The Company of Women may be the inspiration you need. You’ll learn about 100 multipassionate women who’ve led interesting lives and careers built on their talent, ambition, and creativity.
“More of a coffee table collection of photos and profiles than a how-to book on creativity, but I often find heaps of inspiration, and bits of myself, reflected in the pages. I LOVE learning about the lifestyles and philosophies of artists –– how they live, work, dress, and share their ideas with the world –– and this book gives me the opportunity to sit down with 100 different women and learn about their creative processes, anytime I need a bit of grounding or an extra boost of encouragement.”
~ Hailey F., Creative Strategist
Watch the incomparable Grace Bonney on MarieTV: Overcoming Fear, Accepting Imperfection, And The Real Deal With Work Life Balance
Remember getting lost in your imagination as a kid? From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler will take you back to those precious moments. It made E.L. Konigsburg a Newbery Medal–winning author, and for good reason. This book is a classic and will remind you of the pure, childlike joy that comes with creativity.
“This was one of my very favorite books as a kid, and even now. It impacted me and my life in ways I couldn’t have predicted. I credit it for my single-minded determination to live in NYC, deep love of The Met museum, and obsession with art history mysteries which sparked a quest to see every Vermeer painting (28 and counting!). Claudia’s quixotic nature and her ingenuity taught me that no plan is too outlandish, no dream is too big. But, it’s always important to leave room for the unexpected if you want to experience a life beyond your wildest dreams.”
~ Louise, Head of Storytelling
If you want to feel inspired and get a good laugh, look no further than Bossypants by Tina Fey.
It chronicles her life, time on SNL, and what she’s learned from taking creative risks along the way.
“I read Bossypants while I was in grad school to become a teacher. I wasn’t excited about this career, but was desperate for something that would allow me to be creative. All the women in my life who weren’t stay-at-home-moms were teachers, nurses, doctors or worked at an office job that they didn’t like. I was in my early twenties, still trying to figure out who I was and where I fit in. Then I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants and it opened up a whole new world to me. Who was this woman who tells it like it is, has a career built on her creativity, and refuses to put up with people’s bullshit? She’s not trying to be anyone but herself — and she’s wildly successful at it. That book planted a seed. I promised myself that no matter what, I would find a way to be more myself — to write and create, even if it’s just for me.”
~ Laura B., Copywriting
Ultimate Must Read: Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo
If you haven’t read my instant #1 NYTimes bestselling book yet, what are you waiting for?! Everything is Figureoutable will retrain your brain to think more creatively and positively, especially in the face of setbacks. Whether you want to leave a dead end job, break an addiction, learn to dance, heal a relationship, or grow a business, Everything is Figureoutable will show you how.
Now, I’d love to hear from you.
What book has made the biggest impact
on your creative journey and why?
Tell me in the comments below.
For extra love, share a screenshot of this episode on social with the hashtag, #ILovedThisBook. Then tag me @marieforleo and the author of your favorite book. Writing a book is a challenging process and, as an author, it means a lot when you hear from your readers that your book made a difference.
Share as much detail as possible. Thousands of incredible souls come here for insight and inspiration. Your words may help someone else have a meaningful breakthrough. Important: share your thoughts and ideas directly in the comments. Links to other posts, videos, etc. will be deleted as they come across as spammy.
If you’ve spent any time around these parts, you know I take a strong stand for kindness. Please write and respond to each other in that spirit.
Remember, everything you do in life requires creativity, imagination, and determination. You were born to create and contribute. Keep going.
With enormous love,