The best books to jumpstart your creativity

Who am I?

I began exploring the topic of creativity after my mother’s death in 2010. Mom was an extremely creative woman. The mother of ten children, living in poverty, she was a self-taught artist who managed to beautify her simple home with her art, building a home business selling paintings, woodcarvings, wall hangings, and quilts she created. When I began speaking to groups of women about creativity, I was shocked to discover just how few of them saw themselves as creative. Thus began my odyssey into creativity research and therapeutic art, and the resulting book and workshops that inspire and encourage others to discover their creative self.


I wrote...

Called to Be Creative: A Guide to Reigniting Your Creativity

By Mary Potter Kenyon,

Book cover of Called to Be Creative: A Guide to Reigniting Your Creativity

What is my book about?

Called to Be Creative is for anyone looking to reignite that tiny spark inside of them and invite creativity into their lives through simple, everyday practices. A certified grief counselor trained under world-renowned grief expert David Kessler and a Therapeutic Art Coach, Mary Potter Kenyon walks you step by step through the process of exploring your true potential in this inspirational guide to embracing your innate creativity. With in-depth research from the most notable creative authorities, insight from creative pioneers, the author’s personal experiences, and small activities to kick-start your own creative revolution, this book offers you everything you need to live a more creative life.

The books I picked & why

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Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind

By Scott Barry Kaufman, Carolyn Gregoire,

Book cover of Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind

Why this book?

This book is perfect for anyone who likes to see research that supports what they believe. There’s science behind the study of creativity and Wired to Create does an excellent job explaining it. Based on psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman’s groundbreaking research, this book offers a glimpse inside the “messy minds” of highly creative people. Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire study the latest findings of neuroscience and psychology, and the practices of well-known “creatives,” concluding that we are all, in some way, wired for creating, and everyday life presents endless opportunities to express that.


The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday

By Rob Walker,

Book cover of The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday

Why this book?

I only got a few pages into this book before I had to grab a pen to take notes. A mindful attitude is crucial to increasing your creativity, and Rob Walker’s exercises not only jumpstarted my creativity, but increased my mindfulness. I’ve always said I would make a terrible eyewitness because I’m living inside my head most of the time. The Art of Noticing made a difference in that after I read it, I began noticing little things around me that I wouldn’t have paid attention to before. Not only did I try some of the mindfulness exercises, I incorporated at least one into a creativity workshop I do. I also find Rob’s weekly e-mail newsletter inspirational.


An Audience of One: Reclaiming Creativity for Its Own Sake

By Srinivas Rao,

Book cover of An Audience of One: Reclaiming Creativity for Its Own Sake

Why this book?

I was introduced to Srini through his first book, when I realized that "Unmistakables" are my people. Rao, host of the podcast The Unmistakable Creative, argues that we should stop worrying about creating art for money or fame, but focus on creating for an audience of one, ourselves. Rao’s words speak to the inner spark that may have been doused in our childhood, that deep restlessness we carry within. This book includes fascinating true stories of creatives who took this path, along with research from creativity experts.


Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative

By Austin Kleon,

Book cover of Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative

Why this book?

When my oldest son asked for this book for Christmas a couple of years ago, I had to see what kind of creativity book would appeal to a non-reader like him. One written by a creative from his own generation, as the author is my son’s age. A quick read, this short volume will definitely appeal to those who have grown up with Internet access and social media, but it is an inspiring guide to creativity for all ages, presenting ten transformative principles that will help readers discover their artistic side and build a more creative life.


Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

By Madeleine L'Engle,

Book cover of Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

Why this book?

I would be remiss if I didn’t include a book that discusses the spiritual aspect of creativity, considering my considering Christian faith and a Creator who designed us to live out our purpose, creating a life that becomes his masterpiece. In this book, L’Engle explores the connection between art and faith, addressing what it means to be a Christian artist. The beautiful and insightful essays explore what she views as the prime tasks of an artist: to listen, remain aware, and respond to creation through one’s own art.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in creativity, writer's block, and self-actualization?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about creativity, writer's block, and self-actualization.

Creativity Explore 65 books about creativity
Writer's Block Explore 17 books about writer's block
Self-Actualization Explore 96 books about self-actualization

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Artist's Way, The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, and Things Are What You Make of Them: Life Advice for Creatives if you like this list.