Recently I put together a recommended list of books for beginners. What originally prompted me to start reading writers’ books, however, was a patch of burnout. I wanted to rediscover the joy and creativity that, to me, characterized writing. For others like me, here’s a list of the books that most gave me that spark of creativity and joy, or that most contributed to an understanding of the problems that lead to my burnout and enabled me to overcome them. The linked titles of the books lead to our more thorough reviews of the books, so you can check out any that sound interesting and determine whether they’re likely to be helpful to you–obviously what worked for me won’t necessarily be right for you!
Creativity and Inspiration
Mari Messer’s Pencil Dancing gave me the need to go out and buy a bunch of little notebooks to keep in the car, in my dresser, and in my backpack. It produced a flood of creativity and ideas the likes of which I hadn’t experienced in years, and for those suffering from burnout I cannot recommend it highly enough.
The Writer’s Path
The Writer’s Path, by Todd Walton and Mindy Toomay, takes a fluid and free-form approach to learning to write that emphasizes free-writing and creativity. It may be aimed at beginners, but experienced writers who need a reminder that they can write for fun without their inner critic engaged at all times can find it inspiring as well.
Writing in Flow
Susan K. Perry’s study of writing in flow may help you to discover or recover the ability to write in a state of flow, where time seems to disappear and you’re totally immersed in your work.
Zen in the Art of Writing
Zen in the Art of Writing, by world-renowned writer Ray Bradbury, is a fiery, impassioned, and inspiring look at creativity in writing through one man’s wise eyes. I would find it impossible to read this book and not be caught up in its enthusiasm!
Living the Writer’s Life
Eric Maisel’s Living the Writer’s Life, a guide to the problems of living the writer’s life and how you can get through them and overcome them, is a very realistic and honest assessment of the pitfalls and dangers you’ll face in this line of work. It can help you to evaluate what some of your problem areas are, and it can remind you that you aren’t alone — thousands of other writers struggle with these same issues every day.
The Writer’s Survival Guide
Rachel Simon’s The Writer’s Survival Guide is a less clinical approach than Maisel’s, which may appeal more to the artistic types (just as Mari Messer’s “Pencil Dancing” will in the creativity area). Both books have a lot to offer, however. Ms. Simon’s book seems more abstract to me, with fewer concrete strategies and details, but it’s extremely evocative and compelling — particularly for non-fiction! It’s also very encouraging in tone.
Eric Maisel wrote Write Mind: 299 Things Writers Should Never Say to Themselves (and What They Should Say Instead) to teach us how to apply some of the precepts of cognitive therapy in the attempt to improve our own attitudes and thought processes. He applies them specifically to the challenges writers face.
What Really Matters to Me
Robyn Conley-Weaver’s guided journal, What Really Matters to Me, can help you to figure out what you really want from life and how to get it.
The earlier books on creativity are aimed at inspiring your general level of creativity. These are books that are just so much fun, or have so many nifty writing prompts in them, that it’s hard to read them and not come out of it wanting to write something.
Finally, Nancy Kress’ Dynamic Characters is readily available once again! You probably have no idea how much of a wonder and delight this is. It’s a witty, entertaining read that will teach you how to create and write about engaging fictional characters. Nancy Kress’ engaging style and in-depth approach are almost guaranteed to make you want to write, and write, and write.
Word Painting is Rebecca McClanahan’s delightful work on writing description. She truly practices what she preaches, turning what could have been a dry book into something interesting and engaging enough that you’d be hard-pressed not to be inspired to give it a try yourself.
The Pocket Muse
Monica Wood’s The Pocket Muse is a fantastic collection of prompts and sparks to give you something to write about. My only wish is that it could be bought as a deck of cards.
The Writer’s Idea Book
Veteran editor Jack Heffron provides us with a zillion writers’ prompts in his The Writer’s Idea Book. My only reservation here is that the prompts have a fairly mundane feel and don’t immediately lend themselves to some of the wild flights of fancy that I find more inspiring, but the number of prompts alone makes this book invaluable.
The Writer’s Block
Jason Rekulak came out with The Writer’s Block, another book that I wish was printed on shufflable cards. The prompts aren’t always stunning, but there are so many of them that it can still be an invaluable tool.
You’ll find reviews of more books and tools for creativity our review area, some of which are quite good, but these are the books I recommend most highly for those looking for an intense jolt of creativity and inspiration.