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Last Updated on March 4, 2021

Top 25 Books to Unleash Your Creative Potential

Top 25 Books to Unleash Your Creative Potential

Books have the power to uncover worlds we never knew existed. Whether they speak directly about creativity or not, books are a gem trove of motivation and inspiration just waiting to be tapped. Below we have listed some brilliant creative books for creative people that are sure to ignite the imagination. Each book deals with a different aspect of creativity.

1. The Book Of Doing by Allison Arden

The Book of Doing

    Amazon / iTunes / Google Play / Kindle

    “It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.”

    In this book, Allison discusses 94 activities that can create opportunity by taking you out of your comfort zone, and unlocking the creativity that lives inside you. This book also classifies the hurdles standing in your way to success.

    2. Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer

    Imagine

      Amazon iTunes / Google Books Kindle

      “Nevertheless, every mental talent comes with a tradeoff. Once we learn to inhibit our impulses, we also inhibit our ability to improvise. And this is why it’s so important to practice letting ourselves go.”

      Illustrating creativity through references and facts, Lehrer reveals a variety of distinct thought processes that will help us to unlock our imagination.

      3. Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono

      Lateral Thinking

        Amazon iTunes / Google Books Kindle

        “It may be necessary to be on the top of a mountain in order to find the best way up.”

        In this worldwide praised book, de Bono offers some practical methods to buoy up the habit of lateral thinking to generate ideas and to unleash creativity.

        4. It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be. by Paul Arden

        Paul Arden

          AmazoniTunes / Google Books / Kindle

          “The world is what YOU think of it, so think of it DIFFERENTLY and your life will change.” 

          The world’s best advertising expert, Paul Arden, shares his wisdom on issues like problem solving, answering to a brief, connecting, making right decisions, making mistakes, and creativity—all activities that are realistic in modern life.

          5. How To Have Kick-Ass Ideas by Chris Barez-Brown

          How to Have Kick-Ass Ideas

            AmazoniTunes / Google Books Kindle

            “Go Visual’ – capturing your issue without using words. You can sculpt, collage, whittle, whatever!”

            The book How To Have Kick-Ass Ideas is filled with simple, useful methods to unlock your creative juices and contains real-life case studies to exhibit the methods in action.

            6. Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

            Creativity

              Amazon/ iTunes / Google Books / Kindle

              “Creative persons differ from one another in a variety of ways, but in one respect they are unanimous.”

              Creativity is about seizing the moments that can make our life worth living. In this book, the author offers an understanding of what leads to these worth-living moments. Consisting of 100 interviews with extraordinary people, from ecologists and physicists to business leaders and politician, Csikszentmihalyi uses his well-known philosophy to discover the creative process.

              7. Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley, David Kelley

              Creative Confidence

                AmazoniTunes / Google Books Kindle

                “Money will always be easier to measure, which is why it takes a little extra effort to value the heart.”

                This famous book is written by two well-known experts in innovation, intention and creativity. This book reveals the myth that creativity is the domain of “creative types” only.

                8. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

                The Creative Habit

                  AmazoniTunes / Google Books Kindle

                   “If the luckiest people in the world are the ones who get paid for doing what they would otherwise do for free, I am already lucky.”

                  Twyla Tharp, one of the world’s most famous creative artists, shares her secrets for increasing and improving creative talents.

                  9. The Opposable Mind by Roger L. Martin

                  The Opposable Mind

                    AmazoniTunes / Google Books / Kindle

                     “That expertise actually works against the development of expertise in business itself.” 

                    The Opposable Mind is consist of  50 success stories of management, including the success behind some famous brands like Proctor & Gamble, eBay and Four Seasons hotels.

                    10. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

                    Flow

                      AmazoniTunes Google Books Kindle

                      “What an individual yogi can do is amazing—but so is what a plumber can do, or a good mechanic.”

                      The famous psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s illustrious investigations of “optimal experience” have shown that the satisfaction is a state of consciousness called “flow.” In this new edition, Csikszentmihalyi describes the ways this positive state can be controlled.

                      11. Sketching User Experiences by Bill Buxton

                      Sketching User Experiences

                        AmazoniTunes / Google Books Kindle

                        “Sketches are social things. They are lonely outside the company of other sketches and related reference material. They are lonely if they are discarded as soon as they are done.”

                        In this book Bill Buxton has included a huge collection of historic lessons, examples of best practices, and case studies from the world of business/communication/experience design. The book addresses the designers, specialists, community, managers, and business executives.

                        12. Conversations with Wilder by Cameron Crowe

                        Conversations with Wilder

                          AmazoniTunes / Google Books Kindle

                          “It was like a film school masters’ class, and the best interview I’ve ever done. His biggest influence on me has been how he’s lived his life. “

                          Cameron Crowe, director of Jerry Maguire, loves Billy Wilder’s films so much, he’s written a book about them. In this book, he analyzes the “creative process” and tries to discover the secret of success of creative people—writers, artists, filmmakers, and comedians.

                          13. The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

                          The Checklist Manifesto

                            AmazoniTunes / Google Books Kindle

                            “Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us.”

                            The Checklist Manifesto is an intellectual adventures book, in which many lives are lost and saved and one simple idea changes the whole situation. The Checklist Manifesto is a must-read book for anyone looking to get things right.

                            14. The Tenacity of the Cockroach by Stephen Thompson

                            The Tenacity of the Cockroach: Conversations with Entertainment's Most Enduring Outsiders

                              AmazoniTunes / Google Books / Kindle

                              “In a world of locked rooms, the man with the key is king. And honey, you should see me in a crown.” 

                              This book consist of essays authored by extraordinary creative people. This book includes in-depth interviews of creative people from a vast range of disciplines and allows you to investigate their inspirations, processes, trials and skills.

                              15. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

                              Thinking, Fast and Slow

                                AmazoniTunes / Google Books Kindle

                                “The confidence that individuals have in their beliefs depends mostly on the quality of the story they can tell about what they see, even if they see little.”

                                In this highly anticipated book, Kahneman takes us on a revolutionary tour of the mind and explains the systems that drive the way we think.

                                16. Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

                                Steal Like an Artist

                                  AmazoniTunes / Google Books / Kindle

                                  “If you ever find that you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.”

                                  In this book, Austin Kleon emphasizes that it doesn’t take ingenuity to be creative—it just takes being yourself. This book is extremely modern and applicable to the digital age.

                                  17. Manage Your Day-to-Day by Jocelyn K. Glei

                                  Manage Your Day-to-Day

                                    AmazoniTunes / Google Books Kindle

                                    “Like it or not, we are constantly forced to juggle tasks and battle unwanted distractions—to truly set ourselves apart, we must learn to be creative amidst chaos.”

                                    Manage Your Day-to-Day is equipped with practical insights about time management and work productivity. With wisdom from 20 leading creative minds, this book will give you a toolkit for confronting the new challenges at the workplace.

                                    18. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

                                    Predictably Irrational

                                      AmazoniTunes / Google Books Kindle

                                      “But suppose we are nothing more than the sum of our first, naive, random behaviors. What then?”

                                      Predictably Irrational gives an interesting, witty and completely original overview about our illogical decisions. In this astonishing book, behavioral economist Dan Ariely, reveals how irrationality often replaces rational thought.

                                      19. Contagious by Jonah Berger

                                      Contagious

                                        AmazoniTunes / Google Books / Kindle

                                        “People don’t think in terms of information. They think in terms of narratives. But while people focus on the story itself, information comes along for the ride.”

                                        Contagious combines innovative research with prevailing stories.  This book offers a set of precise, actionable procedures to spread information—designing messages, promotion material, advertisements, and information that people will share.

                                        20. Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

                                        Understanding Comics

                                          AmazoniTunes / Google Books Kindle

                                          “Art, as I see it, is any human activity which doesn’t grow out of either of our species’ two basic instincts: survival and reproduction.”

                                          Praised throughout the cartoon industry, Scott McCloud explains and observes many characteristics of visual communication. This famous book has been translated into 16 languages, its ideas applied in many other fields such as game design, web development, and animation.

                                          21. Save The Cat by Blake Snyder

                                          Save the Cat

                                            AmazoniTunes / Google Books Kindle

                                            “Liking the person we go on a journey with is the single most important element in drawing us into the story.”

                                            This book is an ultimate insider’s guide that discloses the mysteries that no one dares to admit, told by a showbiz expert who’s supported that you can sell your script if you can save the cat!

                                            22. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. & E. B. White

                                            Elements of Style

                                              AmazoniTunes / Google Books Kindle

                                              “Omit needless words.”

                                              This book offers useful advice on improving writing skills. Throughout The Elements of Style, the authors promote a plain English style. It can help many students to communicate more effectively by demonstrating how to enliven their sentences.

                                              23. Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland

                                              art & fear

                                                AmazoniTunes / Google Books / Kindle

                                                “Vision, Uncertainty, and Knowledge of Materials are inevitabilities that all artists must acknowledge and learn from.”

                                                Art & Fear explores the world of art, and discusses the difficulties that cause so many artists to give up. The authors, David Bayles and Ted Orland, have personal experience, and provide an incisive view into the world of art as it is experienced by art makers themselves.

                                                24. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards

                                                Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

                                                  AmazoniTunes / Google Books Kindle

                                                  “Once you have learned to walk, you know how to walk for life. You don’t have to go on forever adding additional basic skills.”

                                                  This book is the world’s most widely used drawing-instruction book. People from every walk of life—artists, students, managers, designers, architects, real estate agents, engineers—have applied its ground-breaking approach to problem solving.

                                                  25. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

                                                  The War of Art

                                                    AmazoniTunes / Google Books / Kindle

                                                    “If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

                                                    The War of Art is a profoundly inspiring guide to disable creative blocks of every kind. It also identifies the internal enemy, sketches a battle plan to conquer this enemy; and then determines ways to achieve greatest success.

                                                    Featured photo credit: Paddy via flickr.com

                                                    More by this author

                                                    Tayyab Babar

                                                    Tayyab is a PR/Marketing consultant. He writes about work, productivity and tech tips at Lifehack.

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                                                    Published on June 7, 2021

                                                    How To Overcome Creative Blocks When Feeling Stuck

                                                    How To Overcome Creative Blocks When Feeling Stuck

                                                    In the age of AI, creativity is one of the things that can (still) give us humans an advantage over machines. The assumptions are that AI would do most simple jobs within a couple of decades, and those creative human abilities will be even more necessary. Being creative is helpful for everyone. It’s not only artists and other professionals who need to develop new ideas each day, such as creative directors. The good news is that most of us are born with creative capabilities. The bad news—some of us experience creative blocks and lose some creativity along the way.

                                                    According to a Harvard Business Review article, “most people are born creative. But over time, a lot of us learn to stifle those impulses. We become warier of judgment, more cautious, more analytical.”[1] I’m here to help you get them back and perhaps also improve your abilities.

                                                    Creativity is defined as “the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.”[2] According to a survey of more than 1500 CEOS (in 33 industries and 60 countries), creative traits are more important than discipline, intelligence, and other traits traditionally considered more important by managers.[3]

                                                    In this article, I’m going to explore the reasons that get people stuck when they need to become creative and how to unstuck yourself. Albert Einstein said that “Creativity is intelligence having fun!” So, let’s start having fun by solving this huge creativity problem!

                                                    The First Problem to Notice: Control Your Emotions

                                                    The first step is understanding that you’re not alone and that this is a common issue for many creators. Even the most brilliant minds in history struggled with creative blocks before coming up with their ideas. Whether it’s innovative products (such as Thomas Edison’s lightbulb) or creative art, getting to it was not easy.

                                                    There are many ways to improve your creativity, and for some people, it might be the emotional issue that is bothering them.

                                                    Being creative in some cases means getting out of your comfort zone. It means thinking about things you did not think about in the past, and that’s not always easy. In fact, this is super hard. This can sometimes lead to internal objection, and that can lead to procrastination. As humans, we don’t like doing things that are not familiar to us. Creatures of habits, and for some, getting out of your comfort zone means a big emotional toll.

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                                                    Learning to control your emotions is helpful for many other reasons, and from many user interviews that I personally conducted, it is exhilarating. People feel powerful and invincible, and it also helps them become more creative.

                                                    Let’s go over some specific emotions that might trouble you:

                                                    Self-Efficacy

                                                    For some, it is the feeling of lack of self-efficacy. It’s the feeling of not being good enough, which relates to the fear of being criticized. Being creative also means being out there and open to criticism. Just being aware of that is the beginning of the solution.

                                                    The Tendency Toward Perfectionism

                                                    In some cases, when something is not perfect, we don’t want to show it to anyone because we care how it reflects on us. This is one reason that Y Combinator—the leading startup accelerator in the US—has this famous saying that if you are happy with your first version of the product, then you waited too long. There are many reasons for that, but one of them is the rationale “just act.” Put yourself out there and get feedback.

                                                    In other cases, such as writing or artworks, it is a little bit different. There are some upsides to perfectionism, of course, such as getting to the bottom of each problem until it’s solved. In some cases, that can help boost creativity, and like in everything else, it’s a matter of balance.[4]

                                                    Feeling Overwhelmed

                                                    For some, the issue is feeling overwhelmed. Indeed, having too many commitments or having too many ideas or thoughts can also be a problem. In this case, the solution is cutting out and learning to say no. If too many ideas are the issue, just starting with one is sometimes a good solution.

                                                    Feeling Stuck

                                                    This feeling consists of returning to the same loops you already have in your mind. You have your way of viewing the world, a problem, or a specific situation you’re handling that you can’t have different thoughts than you already came up with. In this case, you can actively think on your premises. You can perhaps ask yourself, “what would ___ say?”, work from a different place, or listen to music that inspires you.

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                                                    I will go over potential additional solutions toward the end of this article as some solutions can help more than one problem. In short, some solutions for this problem category include meditation, mindfulness, and creating a routine.

                                                    Another Angle: Cognitive Improvement

                                                    There are some studies on the neuroscience of creativity. For those of you wondering, the part of the brain triggered when you’re creative is called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This part is in charge of someone’s self-worth and self-critique. These, in turn, make us conform to social norms, so our brain protects us from being different and therefore creative and unique. This means that when you’re least aware of yourself, you’re more creative.[5]

                                                    Emotions are crucial for anything you need to do, and a potentially another way to improve your creativity would be examining your cognitive abilities and processes. One way to improve your creative process goes way back to Graham Wallas’ model, which is still being taught today, although it was created over a century ago. It is simple and can still provide tons of value today. If you feel like going over other processes, you can Google creative process models and find many new ones based on this one.

                                                    Wallas’ model has four stages:[6]

                                                    1. Preparation – In this stage, the focus is on research. Learning about the problem being solved or articulated in every possible way.
                                                    2. Incubation – According to Wallas, this is “Voluntary abstention from conscious thought on any problem may, itself, take two forms: the period of abstention may be spent either in conscious mental work on other problems or in a relaxation from all conscious mental work.” According to Wallas, an English psychologist, the first option is better because it is a better time. Many psychologists these days speak on the importance of being bored in thinking about new ideas.
                                                    3. Illumination – In today’s words, this is what we call the a-ha! moment. Wallas says that you shouldn’t expect an idea right away: “If we so define the Illumination stage as to restrict it to this instantaneous ‘flash,’ it is obvious that we cannot influence it by a direct effort of will.” The good news is that the idea uncovers itself at some point. You can be in the shower, during a walk, or doing something else and have this Eureka moment.
                                                    4. Verification – That’s the part in which the idea gets done—where you are developing the idea you came up with.

                                                    Please note that these stages don’t necessarily happen linearly every time.

                                                    Let’s Get Physical

                                                    After understanding your heart and brain, let’s get familiar with the rest of your body that can help you improve your creative abilities and get past creative blocks.

                                                    Meditation and Mindfulness

                                                    According to Harvard Business Review, leading companies such as Google and Goldman Sachs introduce meditation mindfulness practices to their employees’ routines. According to researchers, “executives at these and other companies say meditation is not only useful as a stress-reduction tool but can also enhance creativity, opening doors where once there seemed to be only a wall.”[7] They tested the effectiveness of meditation and found that 10 to 12 minutes of meditation can boost creativity.

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                                                    Take Six Showers a Day

                                                    This one might sound a little bit silly, but rest assured, there’s a good explanation. Aaron Sorkin, known for the many wonderful tv shows he wrote, said that he sometimes takes 6 showers a day.

                                                    “I’m not a germaphobe; it’s kind of a do-over,” he said. “Writer’s block is like my default position. When I’m able to write something, that’s when something weird is going on.”[8]

                                                    For him, the process of changing his environment and mood is helpful to this creative state. You don’t have to shower so many times a day, but sitting behind your desk all day long might not be the best way to let your creative side unleash itself.

                                                    Treat Yourself Right

                                                    Sleeping and resting are also very important. There’s not much more to say here, just a reminder to all of us working too hard that if we want to overcome creative blocks, we need enough rest.

                                                    Walk to Be 60% More Creative!

                                                    According to Stanford research, “creative thinking improves while a person is walking and shortly thereafter.” This interesting research claims that “walking indoors or outdoors similarly boosted creative inspiration. The act of walking itself, and not the environment, was the main factor. Across the board, creativity levels were consistently and significantly higher for those walking compared to those sitting”. The numbers were astonishing. Creativity is boosted by 60% while and after walking![9]

                                                    Other Suggestions

                                                    Create a Routine and Improve Processes

                                                    According to another HRB article, “If a team is creatively blocked, the first step for managers is to examine whether the processes that surround people are holding them hostage in their thinking.”[10]

                                                    The goal is to create an environment of psychological safety that can arouse creativity by understanding that it is okay to suggest any idea. Some of the most interesting ideas sound dumb at first. Another important note is that teams with a growth mindset atmosphere can be more creative.

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                                                    Keep a Notebook

                                                    Ideas, as we learned already, can come from different places. Document your ideas whenever they come, wherever they come from.

                                                    Consult With an Expert

                                                    Being creative is a topic discussed by many, and there are many methodologies to help boost creativity. Reading an article online is great; consulting with an expert is a good idea if you can afford it.

                                                    Read a Book

                                                    Read a book, see a movie, broaden your horizons by doing anything that lets you get out of your mind. Getting out of your mind can also help break the loops of thinking that you may have.

                                                    Eliminate Distractions

                                                    Having social media open 24/7 is definitely not helpful for being creative. You can use apps like Freedom, Cold Turkey, or Rescue Time to deal with external distractions. Apps like brain.fm can also be useful to avoid other kinds of external distractions.

                                                    So, What Have We Learned?

                                                    So, now that we know that dealing with creativity issues and overcoming creative blocks is not as hard as we might have thought, what’s going to be your first step? All of us were born with some kind of creativity, and using the tools above can help us get back to our best creative minds.

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                                                    Featured photo credit: Steve Johnson via unsplash.com

                                                    Reference

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