Continue Your Idea-Making Awesomeness with These Six Amazing Guides!

My go-to team of books for when I'm in desperate need of a new idea. They'll have your back, too. |

We writers live among our ideas. Kind of a cool reality, isn't it?

It's the truth: The degree to which our ideas delight us is the degree to which we're going to have exciting and enjoyable writing lives. 

That's what I'm aiming for! You too, I'm guessing. ;)

I hope that Idea Camp has been fun for you! You now have some fantastic strategies for making appealing, useable, and energizing ideas! 

SUPER good news for your work-in-progress, and for all those works to come! (Your future projects are all stoked, by the way.) 

But today's our last post for Idea Camp. And the writing life is a big one. Which means that, we're all going to appreciate having even more idea-making guidance in the days to come!

Here are six of my favorite books for creativity and idea-making. If you've been reading the blog for a while, you've heard of them all. But they're a part of my core team when it comes to creativity, so they deserve a big shout-out at the end of Idea Camp!

If you want to level up in terms of creativity, consistency with idea-making, and general awesomeness (that's all of us, right?!), then these are the books to read!

1) A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative, by Roger von Oech

This is, no surprise, a totally off-the-wall book. (Title kinda gives that away, right?) But it is super helpful at shaking up the way we normally think.

Von Oech asks provocative questions about creativity, and he flips the ways we normally approach problems.

This is where I learned about the oracle method, "stepping stone" ideas, and a bunch of other ways to reframe creative problems. (His concept of "the second right answer" is totally brilliant and oh so helpful!)

This book will help you with your writing, for sure, but—bonus!—it will also make you a creative, problem-solving dynamo in the rest of your life as well. 

2) Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert

Yup, it was a mega-sensation in all creative-minded circles for a while, and for good reason. I devoured it, and then listened in on the accompanying podcast, "Magic Lessons," as well.

I just love Gilbert's frank discussion of creativity, her view of the artist's life, and her perspective on ideas like inspiration, wonder, and following your curiosity.

It's also just a thoroughly enjoyable read! This isn't so much a book about actively generating ideas, but the way she approaches creativity will definitely shift the pressure you feel in your writing life.

And that shift will bring wonder-filled ideas in its wake!

(I especially loved: the trickster vs. martyr discussion; the "sandwiches" we eat in pursuit of what we love; and the story about the lobster. Oh my gosh, the lobster. I laughed 'til I cried!)

PS, if you can't wait to get the book, check out her fantastic interview about Big Magic with Marie Forleo. It's all the things!!

3) Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon

Yep, I've done a post on this one before. But it's worth bringing up again here, because Kleon has such a helpful way of describing idea creation: he breaks it down and makes it feel so doable.

I love his whole concept of "the genealogy of ideas," and how he recommends learning from the artists you admire. He says: 

Copy your heroes. Examine where you fall short. What's in there that makes you different? That's what you should amplify and transform into your own work.

How's that for inspiring?! Geez!

And then I'm also haunted by this bit of brilliance: 

Think about your favorite work and your creative heroes. What did they miss? What didn't they make? ... If all your favorite makers got together and collaborated, what would they make with you leading the crew? 
     Go make that stuff.

Riiiiiight?? Doesn't that just get your mind fizzing? The whole book is like that, so, if you haven't checked it out yet ... um, go do that.

(He has a pretty fantastic blog as well... hop on over. And also, if you're trying to wrap your mind around the whole Internet, social media, how-to-be-seen thing, his book Show Your Work! is also exquisite and deeply encouraging. It gave me the courage to start this blog.)

4) The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp

This one again! For sure. Not only does Tharp talk about all aspects of the creative life in a compelling and exciting way, but she also has incredible tips on how to find ideas.

The whole book is helpful for this, but the best chapter for finding ideas is "Scratching." Scratching is Tharp's term for that process of hunting for an idea. She has a bunch of great habits and routines for idea searching... you've gotta read that chapter and try her exercises! You'll have plenty of new ways to forage for brilliance.

5) The Story Grid, by Shawn Coyne

My favorite-ever structure book belongs in Idea Camp?! Yup.

Because if you're writing a novel, and you don't know what do to next, it helps soooooo much to remember the conventions of the genre you're dealing with, the parts of story form (in scenes, in acts), and the "change curve" that Coyne explains.

Having a solid grasp of novel structure definitely saved my idea-making bacon with my work-in-progress! And understanding story form is critical when you're defining the problem that you're trying to solve

6) A Writer's Book of Days, by Judy Reeves

This is THE BEST writing exercise book I've ever encountered and it literally changed my view of my writing and my imagination. For the much, much better. 

It is seriously good.

Working through her daily writing prompts showed me just how incredible my brain can be at making ideas. At creating stories out of thin air. Even on days when I felt dull.

If you give the habit of writing exercises a try, you'll get into the mode of having a flexible, ready, energized mind, eager to snatch and develop any idea that crosses your path. 

BASICALLY, you acquire idea-making superpowers. Yes, really.

Because some of the best ideas you'll ever get, you'll get while your pen is moving. And that is an exhilaration that's worth finding!

Oh, and the articles and essays that make up the rest of the content? MEGA valuable and encouraging.

Dive in: you won't regret it.

We did it!! A month of relishing all things idea-related. WHOA.

I'd love to hear how you're doing: which idea-generating practices have been the most helpful? Any writing blocks blasted away? 

The second half of our writing year is going to be so full of good ideas now! Mmmm. Happy dreaming, lionhearts!

This Book Will Teach You How to Steal, Why Be Boring, What to Subtract, and 7 Other Supremely Helpful Things About Creativity

In the market for a spot-on book about creativity, with loads of useable, practical advice? Look no further. |

Happy Monday, lionhearts! I have another book recommendation for you. It's quite likely that you've already picked it up, but if not, if not, well... you must!

It's Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, by Austin Kleon

Every time I reread this book, I get more out of it. (The sequel, Show Your Work, is also awesome, and it was one of the main reasons why I started this blog at all.)

You guys!! It's excellent! There is so much that you're going to love about this book. And since it's based on a top ten list, well, I thought I'd give you ten reasons why you'll love it:

1. For starters, and because I'm related to a designer and therefore I now Notice Such Things, I love the design of this book: small, square, with tons of hand lettering (swoon!) and memorable Sharpie illustrations: Kleon considers himself a "writer who draws," and the drawings and edited photos in here are just as valuable as the text.

2. Also, Kleon does this thing called blackout poetry. It seems simple, and then you try to do it yourself, and, um, it's tricky. Blackout poems pepper the book, and like the illustrations, they give you an extra layer of content.

(Plus, a new hobby. All you need is a Sharpie and a sheet of text... Try it!!)

3. All right, but let's talk about his "Ten Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative."

The first five-ish are about how to look at the world like an artist, how to combine ideas and techniques to make new ones, what to do with your inspiration, when to get started, what material to work from, why analogue skills are still important (love that!!), and how to use all of yourself in what you do. 

WHOA, right? So good. And it keeps going.

4. The last five-ish are more about being an artist in the world: how to think about your obscurity in the beginning, how to reach your audience, how to interact with other creatives (the lovely ones and the meanies), how to respond to the people you admire, as well as some awesome practical advice on how to not burn out.  

5. He presents a good mix of the practical with the creative. The result is a book that is super accessible, broken into bite-sized bits, yet still with plenty of butt-kicking potential, if you know what I mean.

It's not all theoretical. You can get your teeth into it and start using it right away. 

6. This book will push you. It will help you see what was right in front of you, begging to be used in your work.

If you're like me, it will also call you out on the places where you might be getting a little bit lazy, or a teeny bit precarious. ... I always re-tweak my attitude to work after going through this book!

7. It's also going to comfort you. You'll see yourself in some of these pages and say Hey! Awesome! Yeah! I do that too!

It will give you permission to be yourself, and then to be more of yourself. To dive in to the places that you thought your art wasn't going to reach. To support your writing brain with other creative pursuits. 

8. It's going to help you with the question of how to live like an artist, like a creative soul. He'll remind you of things you might have known or suspected but forgotten.

It's going to feel doable, all over again: how to give your wonderful-crazy writing self a place to live in the real world. You can do it.

9. It's a fairly quick read, making it ideal for a weekend creativity-retreat for yourself, or a week-long master class.

It's an excellent companion on your journey to being a better artist, a better writer, a better creative. 

10. After spending some time reading this book, you will want to get Making Things. Your brain will itch. Ideas will flow. And you'll be ready to dive in again.

What could be better than that??

As Kleon says at the beginning of the book: This book is for you. Whoever you are, whatever you make. 

You will love it. 

Happy stealing.