Writing & Creativity

15 Books About Creativity to Get You Out of a Creative Rut

May 4, 2020

Hi! I'm Marie

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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 creativity — 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 books about creativity for you below. 

Make yourself a cup of something delicious, put on your cozy pants, and settle in for some good, old-fashioned book love.

15 Books About Creativity We Can’t Put Down

We need artists, entrepreneurs, problem solvers, writers, and more people like you to share your gifts with the world. Books on how to be creative can give you the inspiration, motivation, and — most importantly — practical steps you need to take to do that.

Whether you’re stuck in a creative rut or struggling with writer’s block, the books in this list will inspire you to keep creating, no matter what business or season of life you’re in.

1.The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art is a must-read if you’ve ever struggled with procrastination, writer’s block, or self-doubt.

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 these feelings are a normal part of the creative process — and then I keep going. That’s why Steven always tops my book recommendations.

Heather from Team Forleo’s Customer Happiness team has a page of The War of Art tacked to a bulletin board over her desk and consults it any time she needs a reminder of how impactful her words can be.

“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 at Marie Forleo International, too. Our words matter.” 
~ Heather, Customer Happiness

Watch Steven Pressfield on MarieTV: How To Overcome Resistance & Why Talent Doesn’t Matter

2. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

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 bedazzle your toothbrush — read Big Magic.

This book is a treasure map to unleash your most creative and expressive life, and with Elizabeth Gilbert as your guide, you can’t go wrong.

Mandy from our Customer Happiness team recommends Big Magic because it stopped her from giving up on her writing dream. The book helped her love writing again and approach with a renewed sense of playfulness.

“Reading Big Magic gave me permission to be patient with myself. 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, Customer Happiness

Watch Elizabeth on MarieTV: What Elizabeth Gilbert Wants You To Know About Big Magi

3. Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley & David Kelley

Creative Confidence is a book for anyone who mistakenly believes that only “artsy” types can be creative.

It shows you how to use creative thinking to be more productive and successful in any aspect of your life.

Brothers Tom and David Kelley know their stuff. David created Stanford’s d.school, an experimental program where people learn to achieve their greatest potential through design thinking. Tom also wrote The Art of Innovation to share lessons in creativity from the brothers’ design company, IDEO.

“If you seek more creative energy for yourself or your team, this book will provide valuable instruction and empowering encouragement.” 
~ Publisher’s Weekly

4. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Want to understand your creativity on a deeper level?
The Artist’s Way guides you through exercises, writing rituals, and self-discovery techniques to become a better artist. Julia Cameron is a master teacher, and reading this book will transform your creative process.

Our Customer Happiness rep Julia says the book helps her “to not feel like a weirdo for being the way I am or living the way I do” — and we’re all thankful for that! 

“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.”  
~ Julia, Customer Happiness

Want to hear directly from Team Forleo? We created a special episode of The Marie Forleo Podcast called #ILovedThisBook: Creativity Edition. You’ll hear excerpts from some of our favorite books and stories from our own creative journeys.

Download the podcast episode from wherever you love to listen or hit play below.

5. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

Can you think of a more creative, playful, and joyful brand in modern culture than Pixar?

The company’s co-founder and former president, Ed Catmull, wrote Creativity, Inc. for business leaders who want to incorporate Pixar-level creativity into their own culture.

What’s fun about this book is that it dives behind the scenes at Pixar Animation Studios to show you how movies like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and WALL-E came to life.

Ed writes about the people and environment at Pixar that supported the innovation behind those iconic creations. He also shares the unique principles they live by to give their teams the freedom to take risks and create in ways no one ever had before.

“Reading Creativity, Inc., one can easily appreciate Catmull’s gifts as a leader whose style — deft, open, humble, caring, trusting, purposeful — has built, shaped and sustained an exceptional creative culture…That combination of effectively bringing creativity to his leadership challenges and leadership to his firm’s creative work is rare.” 
~ Forbes

6. Embrace Your Weird by Felicia Day

Feel like an oddball? Embrace Your Weird is here for it.

Felicia Day is a multipassionate actress and creative who challenges 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 … it’s all about being okay with being weird!” 
~ Kelsey, Creative Project Manager

Kelsey from Team Forleo has loved Felicia since her own nerdy Comic Con days.

She has this Embrace Your Weird quote scratched in a notebook to get through those “is this good enough??” moments: “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?

7. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Got a love/hate relationship with writing? Anne Lamott is a bestselling author — but that doesn’t mean her feelings on writing aren’t complicated.

Bird by Bird is a classic book every artist should read. It’s 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.’” 
~ Marian, Senior Editor

Bird by Bird doesn’t give you a magic formula, but it does shift your mindset. Next time you sit down to write and you’re staring at a blank screen, like Marian from our Copywriting team, you can remember that, “Anne told you that it was okay to write ‘Mr. Poopy Pants’ just to get something on the page.”

8. Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke

Letters to a Young Poet is a book of letters for the creative soul.

Rilke’s words are mystical and beautiful, and they will leave you marveling over the power of well-crafted, heartfelt words.

Jayasri from our Customer Happiness team read and fell in love with the book as a teenager after losing her father, a vulnerable and uncertain time.

“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, Customer Happiness

9. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon’s books are as fun to look at as they are to read. They’re coffee-table-meets-guide book and will help you determine which direction to follow.

Steal Like an Artist is Austin’s first manifesto for creating in the digital age. He shares “10 things nobody told you about being creative,” his principles to help you connect with your inner artist and get to work.

“Immersing yourself in Steal Like an Artist is as fine an investment in the life of your mind as you can hope to make.” 
~ Brain Pickings

You may also want to read Austin’s other books for creative people: Show Your Work! about how to get your ideas noticed and Keep Going about staying focused no matter what.

10. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards

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 trains your brain to think creatively.

Team Forleo Designer Meg found the book on her grandparents’ bookshelf as a kid, and it helped her discover that everyone is creative — art isn’t some rare mystery reserved for a select few.

“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.” 
~ Meg, Senior Designer

It’s not just inspirational, though. The book is also a great introduction to art and design principles for anyone just getting started or looking for a refresher.

11. In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney

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 talent, ambition, and creativity.

In the Company of Women is a coffee table collection of photos and profiles of creative women filled with heaps of inspiration.

Our Creative Strategist, Hailey, loves taking time to sit down with these inspiring women anytime she needs a boost of encouragement, to learn how they get things done.

“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.” 
~ Hailey, Creative Strategist

Watch Grace Bonney on MarieTV: The Truth About Work Life Balance With Grace Bonney

12. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

Remember getting lost in your imagination as a kid? From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler takes you back to those precious moments. It won E.L. Konigsburg a Newbery Medal­ for good reason.

Though it’s not intentionally a book on creativity, this novel is a classic that will remind you of the pure, childlike joy that heightens creative thinking.

It follows Claudia Kincaid and her brother, Jamie, as they run away from home and end up living at The Met museum.

And it’s been a favorite of our Head of Production, Louise, since she was a kid. The book even inspired her to move to New York!

“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 Production

13. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Do you ever sit down to write, draw, paint, or create anything one second and look up the next second to realize it’s been hours, and you forgot to eat lunch, missed 15 phone calls, and sucked your coffee dry?

That state of total absorption in something you love is what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow” — he believes it’s the happiest we ever are.

His book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience brought the concept of flow into the mainstream in the 90s, and it’s remained among the best books on creativity for decades. It shows you how to control the state of flow, instead of waiting for it to hit, so you can be more happy and satisfied in everything you do.

“Csikszentmihalyi arrives at an insight that many of us can intuitively grasp, despite our insistent (and culturally supported) denial of this truth. That is, it is not what happens to us that determines our happiness, but the manner in which we make sense of that reality.” 
~ Los Angeles Times

14. Bossypants, by Tina Fey

For inspiration and a good laugh, look no further than Bossypants by Tina Fey. It chronicles her life, time on Saturday Night Live, and what she’s learned from taking creative risks along the way.

Laura, a copywriter on Team Forleo, picked up the book during grad school, and it was just what she needed at a time when she was trying to figure out what to do next.

“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.” 
~ Laura, Copywriter

The book inspired Laura to keep creativity in her life no matter what, even if she was just writing or creating for herself.

15. It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden

Ever wish you could channel some Don Draper-esque brilliance to spice up your business or creative projects?

Paul Arden is a real-life advertising guru, and his book shows you how to imbue some Madison Avenue style into your work and personal life to find whatever success you can imagine.

“It’s definitely the first book I give my friends who don’t read that much. I loved its simplicity, and that it sheds light on a lotfff9f7 of different stories, and a lot of different situations while being a very easy read.” 
~ Mohamed El-Dib, Entrepreneur

Also check out Paul’s Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite to learn more about adding creativity to your business and life.

Ultimate Must Read: Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo

Have you read my book yet? If not… what are you waiting for?!

Everything Is Figureoutable was an instant No. 1 New York Times bestseller, and it’ll 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 creativity book has made the biggest impact on your creative growth and why? 

Tell me in the comments below. 

Remember, everything you do in life requires creativity, imagination, and determination. You were born to create and contribute. Keep going. 

With enormous love,

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