Working on creative projects can be incredibly satisfying, but that doesn't mean it's easy. If anything, it's often the other way around. Finding the muse can be an elusive process.
Even professionals aren't immune to this, as you'll see in many of the books we're pulling together in this list. The difference lies not in whether you find your way back to a creative space, but in how you do so.
Here are our favorite books about creativity that'll inspire you, motivate you to keep going, and equip you with ways to effectively channel your creative energy for success.
15. Imagine This: Creating the Work You Love
Authored by Maxine Clair
First published in 2014
208 pages — 3.55 on Goodreads
Many books about creativity offer guidelines or processes to follow. Imagine This merges personal stories with a hands-on approach to awaken your creativity and lead a life of art, inspiration, and happiness.
Maxine Clair weaves her own stories with many others, showing what we can do to keep ourselves motivated to work on the things we love.
There are many different ways we can express ourselves within the spectrum of artistic practice. With Imagine This, we get to see how we better express ourselves while understanding art's role in life.
14. How to Have Kick-Ass Ideas: Shake Up Your Business, Shake Up Your Life
Authored by Chris Baréz-Brown
First published in 1980
256 pages — 3.76 on Goodreads
Getting started on a new project can be tricky. If you can empathize with that statement, then How to Have Kick-Ass Ideas may be the book you should pick up next.
Sometimes creativity needs a practical approach to make sure that our amazing ideas don't remain just ideas. If you have trouble coming up with ideas and turning them into reality, this book can help you make your creative dreams happen.
13. The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain's Untapped Potential
Authored by Tony Buzan and Barry Buzan
First published in 1993
320 pages — 3.81 on Goodreads
The concept of "mind mapping" has been popular for years now, with many adherents gushing about the benefits that are self-evident. But how do mind maps work, exactly?
Tony Buzan's main focus in The Mind Map Book is to help people use their brains in the best possible way—and mind mapping is just another tool that can help us in this process.
In The Mind Map Book, Tony Buzan explores mind maps as a way to improve memory, concentration, and clarity of thought. Schemes, visualization techniques, and much more feature in this book, making it an extremely useful resource for learning and acquiring new skills.
12. First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety
Authored by Sarah Wilson
First published in 2017
320 pages — 3.79 on Goodreads
As you might be able to glean from its title, First, We Make the Beast Beautiful isn't directly about creativity. It's about anxiety instead. But if you're struggling with creativity, then anxiety is likely there with you.
When anxiety grows into a serious problem, people find it hard—even impossible—to express their creativity in healthy and productive ways. Sometimes, creative blocks are rooted in anxiety.
But instead of "curing" anxiety, Sarah Wilson attempts to change it into something beautiful by reclaiming it as part of her life and viewing it as something to be observed and worked with.
11. Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently
Authored by Beau Lotto
First published in 2017
352 pages — 3.74 on Goodreads
Beau Lotto is a neuroscientist who researches human perception and all the ways in which we can use it to succeed in life.
Most of us don't know how perception actually works, and learning more about it can really help us live happier lives.
Creativity and perception are knitted together in this book, showing us how the brain often tricks us into seeing things differently from how they really are. Through this book, you can learn how to master perception and see your own life in brighter colors.
10. The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
Authored by Julia Cameron
First published in 1992
237 pages — 3.94 on Goodreads
If you've heard the popular term "morning pages," you should know that it comes from The Artist's Way!
This book helps you retrieve and develop your creativity by guiding you on a path of discovery and self-healing. Across a hundred exercises and activities, Julia Cameron helps you wake up your inner artist.
Some of the advice here may seem too simple to work—but it does work, and its simplicity is a huge plus. It's what makes this approach suitable for so many people from all sorts of backgrounds, allowing it to be applied to many different artistic practices.
9. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Authored by Elizabeth Gilbert
First published in 2015
276 pages — 3.95 on Goodreads
Big Magic thinks about creativity in terms of something that can be used by everyone. This book shares knowledge, wisdom, and love to show that everyone is capable of being creative.
Elizabeth Gilbert's autobiographical approach helps us learn from her experiences so we can explore the magical world of creativity and bolster how we view our own unique gifts.
8. Conscious Creativity: Look, Connect, Create
Authored by Philippa Stanton
First published in 2019
160 pages — 4.00 on Goodreads
Creativity doesn't need to be a mysterious concept that we have no control over. It can be a friend and ally, a resource and a skill to nurture and improve day by day.
Conscious Creativity brings the focus back to your daily life, showing you how you can implement creativity in everything you do—and therefore train it for when you need it for developing a project.
7. Out of Our Minds: The Power of Being Creative
Authored by Ken Robinson
First published in 2017
304 pages — 3.93 on Goodreads
In Out of Our Minds, creativity is examined via several different lenses: not just its practical use in business, but its presence in children and its real-world value in our lives as adults.
Ken Robinson offers a groundbreaking approach to creativity and debunks some of the most influential, controversial, and pervasive concepts about it.
If you're keen to read academic texts and want to learn more about creativity from multiple viewpoints, this is the book for you.
6. The Creative Cure: How Finding and Freeing Your Inner Artist Can Heal Your Life
Authored by Jacob Nordby
First published in 2021
256 pages — 4.19 on Goodreads
Some people, when asked, claim they just aren't creative. But thinking of creativity as an innate talent or natural attitude isn't just detrimental to its development—it's detrimental to the individual.
The Creative Cure provides a different perspective on creativity, claiming that it's a skill that can be developed and not a unique gift that only some are blessed with.
If you always wanted to be creative but felt like you couldn't be, then this book with provide reassurance and awaken your own creative spirit.
5. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Authored by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
First published in 1990
303 pages — 4.10 on Goodreads
Hopefully, we've all been—at least once—in that zen-like state where life unfolds effortlessly and our creative potential flows freely.
In Flow, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studies what exactly that "flow state" is, how it works, and how to get into it.
This world-renowned author looks at creative processes and researches how they work, teaching us how we can benefit from them, improve them, and use them in our daily lives.
4. The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life
Authored by Twyla Tharp
First published in 2003
247 pages — 4.07 on Goodreads
The Creative Habit is a book that hammers home one main point: if you want to improve your creativity, you have to make a habit of being creative. Obviously that's easier said than done... but certainly true.
This book provides a series of exercises and valuable lessons on how to work towards making creativity a more prominent part of your life and how this creativity can then be used in your own projects and pursuits.
3. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All
Authored by Tom Kelley and David Kelley
First published in 2013
288 pages — 3.99 on Goodreads
With Creative Confidence, the subtitle really says it all. Sometimes we're well aware of our creative potential—the hard part is figuring out how to tap into that potential and make full use of it.
While this book has a bit of a business-minded lean, its main lesson is that there's no dichotomy between "creative people" and "non-creative people." You just need to learn how to access that part of your mind—and this book will help you do that.
2. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
Authored by Austin Kleon
First published in 2012
160 pages — 3.96 on Goodreads
Do you often feel like you need to be absolutely, perfectly prepared before you can start working on something? Steal Like an Artist is here to tell you: NO! That's a terrible idea.
Getting started is the most important part of any project or endeavor, which is why you should never let your insecurities or feelings of inadequacy prevent you from taking those first steps.
Perfect is the enemy of good. Creativity is a muscle, and like all muscles you need to work it in order to get stronger. The longer you wait to get started, the later you'll actually start getting better.
1. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
Authored by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
First published in 2014
368 pages — 4.21 on Goodreads
Nowadays, the concept of creativity is frequently incorporated into all kinds of fields—not just in the arts, but also in business, tech, medical, and everywhere else.
Personally, I love books that take a multidisciplinarity approach, and that's why I think Creativity, Inc. is such a solid read. While it was initially written for business strategy, it's great for anyone seeking creativity.
In this book, you'll learn about the triggers, the blockades, and the obstacles on your way to practical creativity. You'll learn how to deal with them and how to improve on them. Filled with incredible advice, Creativity, Inc. is a must-read resource.