The best books for a more fulfilling, successful, and enjoyable creative life

Who am I?

I’m a creative writing professor and the author of five award-winning YA and MG novels. Nevertheless, for decades no matter what I accomplished, I felt like a failure who wasn’t doing enough. Eventually, I drove myself to a breakdown. Having a breakdown (my lucky break!) gave me an opportunity to reassess what creativity is, and to discover better ways to go about it. I’ve since spent the past 5+ years researching creativity, and how to make creative endeavors more effective and enjoyable. I wrote Breakthrough to share some of the life-changing insights and techniques that helped me. Here are a few books that might prove useful in shifting your creative paradigms and enhancing your life. Happy creating!

I wrote...

Breakthrough: How to Overcome Doubt, Fear, and Resistance to Be Your Ultimate Creative Self

By Todd Mitchell,

Book cover of Breakthrough: How to Overcome Doubt, Fear, and Resistance to Be Your Ultimate Creative Self

What is my book about?

Break free of toxic success myths. Transcend the suffering artist paradigm. Actualize your immense creative potential.

If you've ever struggled with doubt, fear, procrastination, or disappointment while trying to create, this book is for you. Breakthrough goes where no other books on creativity dare to tread—exposing the toxic success myths that hold people back and revealing radical, perspective-shifting solutions. Through concise, friendly chapters that weave together personal experiences with guidance from research and nondual philosophical traditions, readers are given pragmatic ways to turn potential breakdowns into life-changing breakthroughs.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission

The books I picked & why

Book cover of A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose

Why did I love this book?

A New Earth is one of Tolle’s follow-up books to his immensely popular The Power of Now. Although The Power of Now may be more accessible for some readers, A New Earth goes into greater depths into some of Tolle’s core teachings, especially his thoughts on how the ego makes us suffer and distorts our understanding of reality.

So why is this helpful stuff to learn about for a more fulfilling, successful, and enjoyable creative life? Because the ego is the main thing getting in the way of actualizing your full creative potential. The more aware you become of your ego and how it’s interfering (and making you doubt, fear, procrastinate, and suffer) the easier it becomes to transcend your ego and participate more fully and blissfully in what Tolle calls “the dance of creation.”

By Eckhart Tolle,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked A New Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'A wake-up call for the entire planet. A New Earth helps us to stop creating our own suffering and obsessing over the past and what the future might be and to put ourselves in the now' OPRAH WINFREY

'My No. 1 guru will always be Eckhart Tolle' CHRIS EVANS


Are you ready to change your life?

In Eckhart Tolle's ground-breaking book, he gives you the spiritual framework to:
- Understand yourself…

Book cover of The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT

Why did I love this book?

This might seem an odd book for enhancing your relationship with creativity, but if you struggle with doubts, creative fears (such as a fear of rejection or criticism), the imposter syndrome, anxiety about not being good enough to create what you feel called to create, or other limiting beliefs, the Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) techniques that this book focuses on are just what the doctor ordered. 

Essentially, ACT borrows insights and teachings from older nondual philosophies such as Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism, and puts them in a more conventional, research-based package. Personally, I think ACT doesn’t go nearly far enough to address the root causes of suffering. However, The Happiness Trap gives a quick, easy-to-grasp introduction to some useful techniques that most readers can put into practice right away to create a more “rich and meaningful life.”

By Russ Harris,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Happiness Trap as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Do you ever feel worried, miserable or unfulfilled - yet put on a happy face and pretend everything's fine? You are not alone. Stress, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem are all around. Research suggests that many of us get caught in a psychological trap, a vicious circle in which the more we strive for happiness, the more it eludes us.

Fortunately, there is a way to escape from the 'Happiness Trap' in this updated and expanded second edition which unlocks the secrets to a truly fulfilling life. This empowering book presents the insights and techniques of Acceptance…

Book cover of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

Why did I love this book?

A quick, engaging read that effectively describes what resistance is and how it holds creators back from unlocking their full potential. For some readers, this book can be the swift “kick in the ass” that they need to start taking their creative calling more seriously. Some of the short, blunt chapters are things you might want to come back to again and again. But if the “just be a professional” approach doesn’t work for you, or if Pressfield’s grumpy uncle “let me tell you how I did it” voice rubs you the wrong way, you might want to skip this one.

By Steven Pressfield,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked The War of Art as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A succinct, engaging, and practical guide forsucceeding in any creative sphere, The War ofArt is nothing less than Sun-Tzu for the soul.

What keeps so many of us from doing what we long to do?

Why is there a naysayer within? How can we avoid theroadblocks of any creative endeavor—be it starting up a dreambusiness venture, writing a novel, or painting a masterpiece?

Bestselling novelist Steven Pressfield identifies the enemy thatevery one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer thisinternal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve the greatest success.

The War of Art emphasizes the resolve…

The Artist's Way

By Julia Cameron,

Book cover of The Artist's Way

Why did I love this book?

Based on a class for artists that Julia Cameron taught for years, The Artist’s Way is a warm, welcoming book that explores creative therapy for anyone who feels creatively wounded or blocked. This book takes some time to get through, as it’s structured more as a workbook, with exercises to do over 12 weeks to help you recover different aspects of creativity. Many of the exercises can help in establishing life-long, useful creative practices. 

By Julia Cameron,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Artist's Way as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"With its gentle affirmations, inspirational quotes, fill-in-the-blank lists and tasks — write yourself a thank-you letter, describe yourself at 80, for example — The Artist’s Way proposes an egalitarian view of creativity: Everyone’s got it."—The New York Times 
"Morning Pages have become a household name, a shorthand for unlocking your creative potential"—Vogue

Over four million copies sold!

Since its first publication, The Artist's Way phenomena has inspired the genius of Elizabeth Gilbert and millions of readers to embark on a creative journey and find a deeper connection to process and purpose. Julia Cameron's novel approach guides readers in uncovering problems…

Book cover of The Transparency of Things: Contemplating the Nature of Experience

Why did I love this book?

I’ll confess right off the bat that I’m the only person I know who genuinely enjoys reading Spira’s books. His philosophical, highly conceptual, contemplative chapters might not be for everyone. But if you take the time to carefully read and contemplate what Spira discusses, his books can be deeply impactful.

Spira is a “Direct Path” teacher, who conveys some of the deeper teachings of Tantra, Advaita Vedanta, Sufism, and other nondual traditions in a secular, direct, philosophical way. If you want to dive deep into what experience is, what can make life a struggle, and how to experience greater happiness, Spira can be a powerful teacher. The Transparency of Things is a great introduction to his work, but the concepts Spira discusses cannot be understood intellectually. Ultimately, they must be directly experienced to be grasped, and that can take a bit of time, work, and luck.

By Rupert Spira,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Transparency of Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The purpose of The Transparency of Things is to look clearly and simply at the nature of experience, without any attempt to change it.

A series of contemplations leads us gently but directly to see that our essential nature is neither a body nor a mind. It is the conscious Presence that is aware of this current experience. As such, it is nothing that can be experienced as an object, and yet it is undeniably present.

However, these contemplations go much further than this. As we take our stand knowingly as this conscious Presence that we always already are, and…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in spirituality, creativity, and procrastination?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about spirituality, creativity, and procrastination.

Spirituality Explore 250 books about spirituality
Creativity Explore 116 books about creativity
Procrastination Explore 15 books about procrastination

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Alchemist, The Artist's Way, and Good Strategy Bad Strategy if you like this list.