The best books for creative jump starts – whatever your medium

Marge Pellegrino Author Of Neon Words: 10 Brilliant Ways to Light Up Your Writing
By Marge Pellegrino

Who am I?

As a kid, I loved how words on a page transported me. Later, I was astounded by how the words I wrote myself could help me solve problems, deepen my understanding, and expand my thinking. Over time, that writing offered clarity and built my confidence. And in my most challenging times, writing has saved me over and over again. Learning to observe like a writer or an artist continues to help me be more present in my life. Sharing expressive writing experiences with others, during a 35-year career as a writer and workshop facilitator, allowed me to witness how this creative engagement offers a respite while building resilience and joy in others too.


I wrote...

Neon Words: 10 Brilliant Ways to Light Up Your Writing

By Marge Pellegrino, Kay Sather,

Book cover of Neon Words: 10 Brilliant Ways to Light Up Your Writing

What is my book about?

Neon Words is a book that will illuminate the writer in you. By using the tools and activities here, you'll connect the word-organizing part of your brain with your free-ranging imagination—and you'll love what you've captured on the page! It's an exciting, confidence-boosting, and deeply satisfying experience.

Whether you want to be a writer, or just want to explore what it's like to create with language, you'll discover that playing with words can help you be more present in your life. Best of all, it's lots of fun. Who knew writing could be so enlightening?

The books I picked & why

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The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

By Julia Cameron,

Book cover of The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

Why this book?

When I first heard about The Artist’s Way, I doubted that this was a book for me. Was I wrong! Over the next year, I met monthly with a visual artist to process each chapter. We discussed prompts, our artist date, or what we wrote from the suggested journaling. The invitations at the end of each chapter led me to work that fed my spirit. Transforming theory into action exercised my creative muscles. The variety of creative engagements encouraged a rich body of work and a new confidence, while the book’s quotes introduced me to other thinkers. Artist’s-Way work not only strengthened my words on the page, but my nonprofit and library work flourished as well. I credit The Artist’s Way for pushing my work into award-winning territory.


Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words

By Susan G. Wooldridge,

Book cover of Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words

Why this book?

Susan Wooldridge’s Poemcrazy is a vibrant collage in which she shares her poetry-writing journey in rich detail. From evocative chapter titles, quotes by poets, and poems from a variety of lesser-known voices, each element plays a part in setting up and illustrating an approach or addressing the topic at hand. My favorite part of this book is the “Practice” opportunities Wooldridge crafts for us. Get out your pencil! This book, informed by Wooldridge’s expressive arts practice, is one in which we, the readers, are invited to play. You’ll be surprised and delighted by what Poemcrazy will inspire you to write.


Love That Dog

By Sharon Creech,

Book cover of Love That Dog

Why this book?

I dare anyone to read Love That Dog and not write a poem. Newbery-Award-winning author Sharon Creech’s novel-in-verse is the story of a reluctant writer Jack, whose teacher exposes the class to a variety of well-known poems by esteemed writers and assigns the students to emulate each style in turn. We follow along in Jack’s poetry journal as he struggles with the assignments. When he finally gets to his true material and writes a poem about what he cares about, what is heavy on his heart, his reluctance vanishes and he discovers that writing can also transform how he feels. Powerful stuff.


If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

By Brenda Ueland,

Book cover of If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

Why this book?

Keep in mind that the first edition of If You Want to Write was published in 1938 by a woman. What a trailblazer! In her long life, Ueland spent time as a journalist, editor, writer, and writing teacher. But don’t be fooled, If You Want to Write can serve as an inspiration for anyone who wants to tap into any creative medium. The attitude that I took from the book and try to follow in my writing practice can be summed up by this Ueland quote, “I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten – happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.”


Writing What You Know: How to Turn Personal Experiences Into Publishable Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry

By Meg Files,

Book cover of Writing What You Know: How to Turn Personal Experiences Into Publishable Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry

Why this book?

We’ve all got one of those life stories that we end up telling over and over again. Research has confirmed that those stories hold power. Meg Files in Writing What You Know offers us a path to transform those stories from the telling onto the page, and just maybe into the larger world. I credit Files’ workshops for helping me refine work that was later published. While you might notice that she draws on her teaching, conference creating, and publishing experience, she also writes with the voice of a supportive, nurturing friend. She reminds us not to be too self-critical, gives us the questions to get started, and challenges us with many opportunities to be “Jumping into the Abyss.”


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in writing, poetry, and creativity?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about writing, poetry, and creativity.

Writing Explore 38 books about writing
Poetry Explore 204 books about poetry
Creativity Explore 76 books about creativity

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Shunned, The Way Of Transition, and Bird by Bird if you like this list.