Our jobs often require us to generate creative ideas quickly. Maybe not every day, but many days. If you’re in a rut or looking for a way to tap into your creative flow, here are seven books on the topic that may help. The books cover exercises for enhancing creativity, understanding creativity, getting over fears of creativity and a look at how to increase team creativity.
1. Being Creative: Be inspired. Unlock your originality. by Michale Atavar
I found this little-known book to be a bit of a gem. Similar to Steal Like an Artist, just browsing through the book feels like a creative activity. The 20 lessons introduce the reader to a creative concept, such as Beginners Mind, Reduce the Frame and Internal Camera.
The author elaborates on the concepts and enriches the book with personal experience, creative exercises, examples and toolkits. The theme here is that curiosity and playfulness coupled with sincere effort will enhance your abilities for creative expression.
2.Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic is a bestselling inspirational book for living a creative life. The key theme here is the empowerment of readers who are afraid to follow their creative instincts.
You can get a sense of the book’s trajectory from its organization: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, and Divinity.This book is not heavy with instructions. Rather, it encourages and inspires the reader through stories. Although the examples revolve around writing, it’s not a big leap to apply the themes to any type of creativity. If you are a fan of her work (as in Eat, Pray, Love), you’ll like past episodes of Gilbert’s Magic Lessons Podcast where she helps listeners overcome their fears of actualizing their creative selves.
3. Fostering Creativity by Harvard Business Review
I almost didn’t include this book because it’s, well, kind of dry and uncreative. There’s no sparkle here. Yet, if you are interested in how to move a team toward greater creativity, it works as a technical manual rather than an inspirational one.
Fostering Creativity is part of HBR’s Pocket Mentor series and it focuses on how leaders can enhance team creativity in the workplace. It covers how to assemble a team, spot opportunities for innovation, generate ideas and select the best ones. There are also tools and worksheets that managers might find valuable. Although the book’s presentation looks dated with stock photos throughout, it provides a path toward greater team creativity. The link takes you to the HBR website where you can buy the PDF version.
4. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
If you haven’t read this classic, you’re missing out on some inspirational fun. Steal Like an Artist started as a graduation talk that went viral. The book’s visual style screams creativity, with its bold font and the author’s simple drawings. It’s a quick read with valuable lessons and even a little wisdom. The general theme is to be yourself. He means your real self. And by following that difficult path, you will find creative breakthroughs.
“Nothing is original, so embrace influence, collect ideas, and remix and re-imagine to discover your own path.”
This book was written for both the traditional and nontraditional (accidental) creative who is expected to generate great ideas on demand. The rationale is that both groups of employees have similar challenges and obstacles to being creative. After diagnosing the creative pressures at work, the author provides practices for creating “higher levels of creative insight.”
The main thesis is that there are five areas of work that need to be managed for regular creative output: focus, relationships, energy, stimuli (information) and hours (time). This book doesn’t offer quick techniques. Rather, it offers a way to prepare yourself for continuous creative output.
6. Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques (2nd Edition) by Michael Michalko
If you want to examine problems in an unconventional way, you’ll probably like Thinkertoys. The author, known as a creativity guru, is well-versed in leading teams that solve international problems. Based on years of approaching problems from varied perspectives, Thinkertoys consists of thirty-nine chapters of problem-solving exercises. These are categorized into: Linear Thinkertoys, Intuitive Thinkertoys, Koinonia Thinkertoys (collaborative problem-solving) and EndToys.
The theme of the book is that anyone can become open-minded and innovative if they apply themselves to this goal. He provides the exercises, activities and strategies for doing the work.
7. Whole Lotta Creativity Going On by Regina Pacelli
If you’re looking for creative exercises, this inexpensive book presents 60 activities that focus on ten different aspects of creativity. The exercises are designed to make you stretch a little and some will bring you outside your comfort zone, such as communicating through pantomime for a few hours.
The author organizes exercises into categories: Imagination; Ideation; Awareness; Sensory and Experience; Thought Expression and more. This book has the potential to give many people the creative boost they are seeking.
Need more? Listen to my interview with creativity professor, Brad Hokanson, on How to Develop Your Creativity Skills.