Creative books: Four approaches to unlocking creativity

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By Emily Mata

Creativity is hard work. Sometimes it flows freely — other times coming up with a creative idea feels like pulling teeth. A tried and true method for unlocking creative potential around Moonsail North is by reading creative books.

There is a seemingly endless supply of creative books on the market. Just like creativity takes many shapes and forms, creative books vary in their style and intent. Some books are designed to inspire you immediately, while others plant the seed for long-term creative practices. Here are 4 books that will spark your creativity and give you the push you need:

1.) Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

IMG_2098Of all the books about creativity I’ve read, this is my favorite. Short in stature but jam-packed with anecdotes, illustrations, infographics and advice, Steal Like an Artist is ideal for anyone who is trying to interject creativity and inspiration into their work (or their lives). Kleon argues two main points in his book: First, everyone has the potential to be creative. Second, in order to harness the aforementioned creative genius, you must steal from the other movers and shakers of the world — everything has already been done.

Bottom line: Drawing inspiration from people you admire is paramount — but in order to be truly creative you must be yourself. You have something to offer the world that no one else does.

2.) The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

IMG_2101While some authors like Kleon argue that creativity is everywhere and in everything, Tharp takes an entirely different approach to the creative process. Over the course of her 35 year career as a choreographer, Tharp has learned that creativity isn’t something only certain people are gifted with — it’s disguised as hard work. Anyone can tap their creative potential if they are willing to put in the time and effort it takes to develop and hone one’s creative skills. In addition to excellent advice and narration, the book contains 32 exercises designed to cultivate and improve creative aptitude.

Bottom line: Forming the habit of creativity requires a conscious decision and continued effort.

3.) Uncommon Genius: How Great Ideas are Born by Denise Shekerjian


IMG_2099Perhaps the most fascinating of all the books on this list, Uncommon Genius draws on interviews from forty MacArthur Award fellows — commonly referred to as the “genius award.” Rather than being a quick-fix instructional guide to creativity, Uncommon Genius investigates the ways in which creative geniuses in various fields produce their work. Much like The Creative Habit, Uncommon Genius posits that creativity isn’t a conceptual ideal, but rather the result of attitudes, behaviors and practices that cultivate and foster creative thinking and the creative process.

Bottom line: There is no mystery to creativity or unlocking creative potential. It is the direct result of actions — taking risks, making mistakes and being resilient.

4.) Creating Creativity: Falling in Love with your Inner Anarchist by Ari Weinzweig


IMG_2100As a born and bred Michigander, I was somewhat partial to this piece of creativity-unlocking literature that was written by the co-owner and founding partner of Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor (a very successful food and gift mail order company). I was doubly interested in the book because of its inherent focus on creativity and start up culture — something that interests me as the intern of a startup. The book is excerpted from Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 3: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Managing Ourselves and, while short in length, it is abundant with wisdom and great advice. True to its title, the book talks about creativity in terms of anarchy — in order to be creative you have to break the rules. While so many creative books act as quick-fix instructional guides to spurring creativity, this book stood out because in addition to discussing practices that spur creativity — like walking meetings — it  took the time to talk about what creativity is not and common practices that are not conducive to inspiring the creative process. As Weinzweig put its, “there is no recipe for creativity and even if there was, I wouldn’t want it.”

Bottom line: In order to incite creativity — whether in your personal life or in company culture — you must get outside of your comfort zone, think outside the box and dare to take chances.

What are your favorite creative books? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn and be sure to use the hashtag #CreateZone. Additionally, don’t forget to follow our Pinterest boards where we pin additional creative books and resources.