Five Essential Books for Creative Artists, Makers, and Writers Fighting Distractions in the Digital Age
Just a few more perfectly-lit photos to get a couple more likes. Hustle to write or share more so people know I’m "hip" with the trends. We’re all so busy creating and consuming content that we forget what’s required for sustainable creativity and inspiration.
So many of us run around, trying to do well at our day jobs while balancing families and friendships with the side projects that beg for our attention. There’s a lot to do and so many things to create, but sometimes we sit down at the desk and freeze. Whether it’s writer's block, lack of inspiration, or the millions of distractions our brains suddenly recall, the precious moment of creativity is stifled. Perhaps it’s because we’re so inundated with the digital glow and obsessed with the urge to consume and create just to keep up with everyone else.
What do we do instead?
Finding a Better Creative Way
Yes, we can read poetry and listen to a sincerely weird alt-pop playlist no one else has heard of and stare at the muted colors of fall take over the world outside our windows, and those are all valid and helpful sources of inspiration for our creativity.
There are plenty of lists and how-to-be-creative articles, promises of easy steps and simple fixes. Yet, there are also times when we need to step back from our routines, evaluate the projects and calendar days we’re scurrying through, and reconsider the bigger picture:
What am I creating?
Why am I creating it?
What is my creative work doing to my commitments?
How is my creative work affecting my relationships?
Where is my creative work taking my internal monologue?
Can I grow healthier as a person and more productive as a writer/maker/designer/etc., or are they working against each other?
Is there a better way?
What if reading a few choice books and doing the work of deep, slow reflection is what we really need to re-engage the humanity we’ve lost in the hustle for productivity?
Books about your inner life and relationships aren’t just for psychology students and self-help junkies. The good ones, anyway, give us a grid for life and work and ideas that work together in the direction of human flourishing, and not against that flow.
Don’t let your work life and your personal life cannibalize each other.
You can rediscover the depth of inner life and relationships, and how those fuel healthy creativity when you return to your craft at the desk, easel, or computer.
In my journey toward a better creative rhythm and healthier relationships, loads of books provided meaningful input. These are among the most meaningful I’ve found so far:
5 Essential Books for Creative Artists, Makers, and Writers Fighting Distractions in the Digital Age
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles; Steven Pressfield
Everyone who creates faces resistance and has to fight it. You can learn to spot your weaknesses and strategically hone your strengths. These powerful, no-nonsense, short chapters to keep you on track, like a daily check-up (or kick in the pants) for your creative mind. Stop running from your most meaningful work; just get to it.
“How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip, and compulsive cell-phone use, simply because we don’t do that thing that our hearts, our inner genius, is telling us to? Resistance defeats us. If tomorrow morning by some stroke of magic every dazed and benighted soul woke up with the power to take the first step toward pursuing his or her dreams, overnight every shrink in the directory would be out of business.”
A challenge to be honest about imperfections, but bold in knowing our worth and making choices anchored in wholeheartedness, not fear of our own brokenness or shame. Excellent research-based insights and principles for relationships, internal monologue, and finding the freedom to create without catering to the critics in your imagination (or real life).
“What we know matters, but who we are matters more. Being rather than knowing requires showing up and letting ourselves be seen. It requires us to dare greatly, to be vulnerable. The first step of that journey is understanding where we are, what we’re up against, and where we need to go.”
The Power of Introverts: 9 Best-Loved Stories; Susan Cain
Whether you’re an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in the ambivert range, this little ebook is a great primer on the strengths and capabilities of the quieter, thoughtful ones among every team or social circle. But the most important insights here revolve around this: Creators are thinkers first. The better we know and respect ourselves and the people we work with us, the better work we can do.
“Yes, creativity is social in the sense that we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us; yes, we must share and advance ideas (that’s the whole point of this article); and yes, collaboration is a powerful and beautiful thing (think Lennon and McCartney, or the Madonna and child). But for many people, the creative thinking process is a solo act.”
Discovering Your Personality Type: The Essential Introduction to the Enneagram; Don Richard Riso & Russ Hudson
Like The Power of Introverts, Discovering Your Personality Type brings theories out of the psychological realm and into the practical. Two of the most significant relationships we each have to navigate are with the people we’re around the most: partners and coworkers.
And before you get to a place of real honesty, health, and mutual respect, you’ll have to discover more about yourself—defaults, blindspots, and all—so you can show up as the real you. Through that, you’ll give others permission to show up as their real selves so you can work through challenges, find the best ideas, and evaluate creative viewpoints together.
“The degree to which we can have healthy, growing relationships mirrors the degree of our psychological functioning as well as our spiritual maturity…
Good relationships depend on our being able to understand ourselves and others, to see our own needs and the needs of others, and to accept the legitimacy of others’ viewpoints while expressing our own.”
Brief, simple, practical, illustration-saturated advice for makers. Like a contrarian friend you love to spar with over drinks when everyone else went home, this book will prove it understands you and still invites you to a better, more honest and inspired way to do the work you love with the effort it deserves.
“The secret: do good work and share it with people.”
Which books have inspired your work, perspective, and habits?
Read more about growing through change and conflict—at work, at home, and in relationships. Get a free chapter from my upcoming book, The Variable Life: Finding Clarity and Confidence in a World of Choices.