The best books for when you’re creatively stuck

Jennifer Louden Author Of Why Bother: Discover the Desire for What’s Next
By Jennifer Louden

Who am I?

I’ve been obsessed with the creative process since I was 8 and read Harriet the Spy and realized her writing saved her and after I spied on one of my parent’s cocktail parties and wondered why everybody was so dull (I was so cheeky). Still, it’s the quest that drives me: how do we be fully ourselves in this world and how does creativity help? I explore this question on my podcast Create Out Loud and in my weekly newsletter, and these books have helped me formulate, if not answers, creative and mindful practices that sustain me daily. I hope they inspire you too.


I wrote...

Why Bother: Discover the Desire for What’s Next

By Jennifer Louden,

Book cover of Why Bother: Discover the Desire for What’s Next

What is my book about?

In Why Bother? best-selling author Jennifer Louden dares you to face the question we all ask at some point: why bother? Why bother to create, to write, to love, to risk disappointment again? She shows how to prioritize what’s calling you, especially when you’ve sidelined your creative dreams to raise kids, pay the rent, or take care of aging parents. And crucially, she shows you why tapping into your desires will give you the energy to move forward—even when there seems to be no point. Why bother is not a question to be ashamed of or run from, it’s a question to embrace and let it show you what’s next.

The books I picked & why

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Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

By Rick Hanson, Richard Mendius,

Book cover of Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

Why this book?

If you have an inner critic who berates you like Logan in Succession, you need this book. Learn how to work your mind and creating what you want is so much easier. Rick guides you to understand how your brain works – science is so cool! - and then how to change your brain so it works far better and that Logan guy shuts the hell up.


Make Your Art No Matter What: Moving Beyond Creative Hurdles

By Beth Pickens,

Book cover of Make Your Art No Matter What: Moving Beyond Creative Hurdles

Why this book?

Most creatives struggle with maintaining a creative practice in the face of busted water heaters, draining day jobs, and pesky emotions especially anxiety and depression. Beth’s refreshingly honest handbook is built on the premise you must find a way to make your art no matter what. She’s also been a guest on my podcast Create Out Loud and I loved everything she shared.


Minding the Muse: A Handbook for Painters, Composers, Writers, and Other Creators

By Priscilla Long,

Book cover of Minding the Muse: A Handbook for Painters, Composers, Writers, and Other Creators

Why this book?

This is one of those secret gems of a book that hardly anybody has heard of but after you read it, you’ll be giving multiple copies away to every creative you know. Rich with real-life examples from working artists and writers, and Priscilla’s long history as a working creative and teacher, I have underlined an idea or suggestion on almost every page.


Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere)

By Lisa Cron,

Book cover of Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere)

Why this book?

I’m a writing mentor and coach, and this book has helped so many of my novelists understand and implement dramatic story structure. If you are trying to write fiction, screenplays, or memoir, and you haven’t read this, prepare to have your mind blown open. I have one word for you: misbelief. Go read the book and you’ll soon understand why it’s a game-changer. Note: Lisa doesn’t mention memoir but when I interviewed her on my podcast, she assured me the concepts work beautifully and have been successfully applied. 


Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals

By Oliver Burkeman,

Book cover of Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals

Why this book?

if you’re stuck because you can’t make the time to write or paint or choreograph a ballet based on Schitt’s Creek, Oliver will convince you to stop trying to get everything done, stop trying to get everything under control, let your expectations crash to the ground, and finally focus on what matters. He is the only guy to date I’ve had on my podcast.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in creativity, love, and time management?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about creativity, love, and time management.

Creativity Explore 74 books about creativity
Love Explore 159 books about love
Time Management Explore 17 books about time management

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Sapiens, Building a Life Worth Living, and When the Body Says No if you like this list.