3 Books With Tremendous Impact On My Creative Life
“One must always be careful of books,” said Tessa, “and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.” ― Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel
Every morning, I sit at my computer and wait. Some days, I don’t have to: my fingers swipe across, lithely transferring my thoughts to the approving cursor. Some days, the reverse is true, I blink in tandem, spewing some measly lines and consoling myself that tomorrow will be another day. Or when it gets really bad, I am reminded of Ernest Hemingway: all writing is rewriting. Then there are days when I can feel the idea, I can spew a little gold among the garbage and look back at it, knowing there is something in this.
I just don’t know what yet.
These three scenarios have not always been my outcome. There have been periods I spent months looking for inspiration only to get drowned in my daily living and finding solace at night that I had once written and will one day write.
The beautiful thing about being a writer ( — what isn’t beautiful about this life?) is that once we accept our call as creatives and seek ways to be in tune with our job description, we almost always easily fall on books that, like Ryan Holiday’s email from Tyler Cowen, are quake books.
I was a reader before becoming a writer, and if I could be paid to read, I would do it for free. Which is why when I surmounted my fear of failure, I started a YouTube channel.
I have come across many books, and I am yet to write about the 10 most impactful books to me. If you’re reading this, I believe you understand how we build relationships with books and can’t seem to pick one over the other. They’re all like our children.
And like children, deep down, we know our favorites.
When it comes to books about creativity, I know my favorites. Today, I’ll treat you to three of such and what I believe you could benefit from reading them.
“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” ― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish
The Heart To Start: Win the Inner War & Let Your Art Shine
Author: David Kadavy
“If having Goals on your Calendar is so powerful, and if I had milestones on my calender for planning my book project, why did I still have to lie to myself each morning to get myself to write? This brings us to a subtle but important detail of the martial art of Motivational Judo: You have to apply just the right amount of force in your commitments. If you make too small a commitment, you won’t gain enough momentum to keep moving. If you make too big a commitment, you’ll just end up cheating yourself” — The Heart to Start
If I say this book got me to start my YouTube channel, I would not be exaggerating. I had listened to the author’s podcast and already loved his cool-headedness. The struggles he mentioned in the book, and how he overcame them made me connect at a deeper level. He opened with an interview with one of my creative heroes — James Altucher — which made it harder for me not to fawn over.
Apart from the storytelling and relatively short length, the book has applicable nuggets I have been able to use to date. I revisit whenever I feel lost. I am grateful for winning this in a giveaway and will remain on my list of top books to recommend other creatives.
“Telling someone to just get started isn’t always enough…. there are many forces that make that advice hard to follow. But, there is fuel you can find and there are mental barriers you can overcome to make it happen. That start can build the momentum for one explosive finish after another”
— Pgs 116–117, The Heart To Start
This book will teach you how to build a starting habit that propels your craft forward.
The War of Art: Break Through The Blocks and Win Your Creative Battles
Author: Steven Pressfield
“The professional respects his craft. He does not consider himself superior to it. He recognizes the contributions of those who have gone before him. He apprentices himself to them.
The Professional dedicates himself to mastering technique not because it is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come. The professional is sly. He knows that by toiling beside the front door of technique, he leaves room for genius to enter at the back.”
— Pg 84, The War of Art
Mr. Pressfield is to the creative mindset what Joseph Campbell is to the hero’s journey. I believe he is the one who coined the term “Resistance” as that force — the embodiment of everything that stands in the way of the craft from the people in our lives to the voice in our heads.
I had come across this book a few years ago, but when I got a physical copy, it was as though I was reading it for the first time. Every time is like the first time, his voice fresh and gripping, dripping with truth and aha-moments. This book made me understand how much ‘work’ there was in creative work and how to embrace the world that fights against creatives.
I have never felt as empowered to keep trudging on my craft as whenever I turn the last page of this book.
“When Krishna instructed Arjuna that we have a right to our labor but not to the fruits of our labor, he was counseling the warrior to act territorially, not hierarchically. We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.”
— pg 161, The War of Art
With this book, you will learn how to treat creativity like a professional.
An Audience of One: Reclaiming Creativity for Its Own Sake
Author: Srinivas Rao
“When your art is not your way of earning a living, you have a sense of freedom to create whatever you’re proud to put your signature on, even if it doesn’t have the potential to pay bills. The downsides to your creative risks are minimal because you can create whatever you want.
This is the artistic equivalent of childhood: the opportunity to experience creative effort as play rather than work. In this beautiful and special time, you’re liberated from the expectations of others and have an unlimited freedom of expression. When there’s no audience, you can truly dance like nobody’s watching and sing like nobody’s listening.”
— Pg 37, An Audience of One
Srini carries the wealth of information from his personal experience as one who used the ‘scenic route’ and the quality conversations on his podcast to squeeze creative ingots that would outlast him. Reading this made me realize how I was shooting myself in the foot by pandering to ‘my audience’.
His argument is a pretty simple one, and he might not even be the first to make it: by making the things that most matter to you, you end up making those things that only you can make.
In a time where the internet has democratized creativity, this book serves as a reminder of what to create when everyone is seeking trends and waves of popularity to ride.
I always look forward to his Medium posts and this book is no different: a unique perspective, well-told and well balanced with other legendary voices.
“When you take your final breath, what will you leave behind? Will there be anything for people to remember you by? Projects, art, connections that tell your story? Or will there simply be a generic obituary somewhere on the internet?” Pg 192, An Audience of One
The book asks and answers one simple question:
What would happen if you created for the sake of creating?
There are many books about and for creativity, and I intend to continue reading. I love books I can go back to and find a new understanding of whatever concept I am struggling with. I agree with Oscar Wilde, “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”
I would love to hear your take on these books and your recommendations on books about creating.
Thank you for reading and have a great day!
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood
Note: Amazon links to the books are affiliate links and I get a small commission if you purchase the books through them at no extra cost to you.