Three Books (well… four) to Pull You Out of a Creative Slump

Three Books (Well... Four...) To Pull You Out of a Creative Slump - Reghan Skerry

Getting back into my creative groove has become easier since I started making an effort to both carve out the time to work and track my progress, but I still need an occasional hit of external motivation. So, over the past few weeks, I’ve been rereading the books that always make me want to make things:

1. Make Good Art – Neil Gaiman

If you have an idea of what you want to make, what you were put here to do, then just go and do that. And that’s much harder than it sounds and, sometimes in the end, so much easier than you might imagine.
(Neil Gaiman, Make Good Art)

Neil Gaiman’s 2012 commencement address at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, in a book beautifully designed by Chip Kidd. I read it again last week (it’s a short read, and I come back to it every time I’m feeling discouraged), and it made me cry. Again.

2. The Creative Habit – Twyla Tharp

There’s a paradox in the notion that creativity should be a habit. We think of creativity as a way of keeping everything fresh and new, while habit implies routine and repetition. That paradox intrigues me because it occupies the place where creativity and skill rub up against each other.
(Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit)

This is the most practical book about creativity I’ve ever read. Twyla Tharp goes through her own process step-by-step, from generating ideas, to research, to dealing with failure. Not all of the advice will work for everyone (when does it ever?), but the specific, actionable exercises are a welcome change from the vague advice to ‘follow the muse’ that you usually get.

3 (+1). Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work! – Austin Kleon

We make art because we like art.
(Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist)

First of all, if you haven’t read Austin Kleon‘s Steal Like an Artist, you need to go do that immediately. Read it through once, then keep it at hand to flip through whenever you need a reminder. And then do the same with Show Your Work! When I struggle creatively, it’s almost always with one of two things: the feeling that I don’t have anything new to say, or the feeling that no one’s listening anyway. These are the books that knock some sense into me in those moments.