Favorite Books on Creativity and the Life and Craft of a Writer

These are my top 5 books on creativity and writing craft that I go back to when I need insight or change in perspective, a way to “loosen up” creative muscles stiffened by tension or deadlines, or when I’m just starting out on a new project. The first three and the last one are by prolific authors, which to me is proof that their ideas and methods are helpful in living a creative life.

1. Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – a relaxed and positive approach that nurtures creativity in life and art. I also enjoy her Walking in This World and The Right to Write. In places, Cameron heavily advocates a kind of “new age” philosophy and practice, which I don’t find helpful and sometimes find irritating. But her attitude towards creativity as a lifelong process, and the exercises she suggests help me focus on the creative process rather than the “product.” Paradoxically, this has helped me to become much more productive as a writer.

makingagoodwriter2. Making a Good Writer Great by Linda Seger – a wonderful companion to discovering a writer’s gifts, strengths and weaknesses, and using that knowledge to grow. Seger specializes in screenwriting, and I find all of her books helpful, but this is my favorite. (More later about best screenwriting books!) I also had the joy of hearing her speak about her own creative process about seven years ago, and she autographed a copy of this book for me.

3. Fearless Creating by Eric Maisel – an encouraging guide to delving deep into my writing projects when I need to focus or when the voices of doubt or discouragement become overwhelming. Maisel’s books were the first to help me understand the “idiosyncracies” about the writing process as I experience it, especially once I started to write with specific goals. I’m currently (and slowly) working my way through another of his books, Creativity for Life.

wordpainting4. Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan – the best guide I’ve found to writing description. It’s so well-written and has so many good ideas and writing prompts, that this book is invaluable for whatever kind of writing I’m doing. Although description in screenplays must be spare, McClanahan encourages observation of the telling detail that one could include in a script. Word Painting has motivated me to become much more observant–an invaluable skill in a writer.

5. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. A delightful introduction to writing practice for the sake of writing practice. Her lists of writing exercises scattered throughout the text are my favorite part of the book.

I also find books on writing and appreciating poetry very stimulating when I need a “push” in a different direction. What are your favorites?

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