When I’m up against a creative brick wall or need a little push I’ll often return to a core group of books that have inspired me over the years. They’re not heavy on tech or even “how-to” chapters. They get straight to the heart of the matter. Breaking through resistance, procrastination, summoning the muse, remaining consistent and achieving mastery.
On Writing, Stephen King
I first listened to On Writing in the audio book format, but I own a copy of the paper back as well. King takes you back to his rather humble beginnings. If this book doesn’t inspire you to chase after your dreams then I don’t know what will. He climbed over seemingly insurmountable obstacles, worked every shit job you can imagine, had a family to feed and still managed to find the time to write Carrie. Oh, and he wrote this particular book while under immense physical pain while recovering from a hit and run. What’s your excuse?
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven Pressfield
You may know Pressfield as the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance or Gates of Fire. Michael Mann was trying to bring G.O.F. to the big screen but Frank Miller’s 300 beat him to the punch.
The war of Art is a quick read. Hell some of the pages are only half full, but it’s powerful stuff. This was the first book that I read out of this bunch and it’s the one that I’ve returned to most often.
Whenever I’m about to enter a new creative phase in my life I give this little tome a quick spin.
Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, George Leonard
This one caught me off guard. I was skeptical when I pickup Mastery, but he had me in the first chapter. Leonard uses his experience in mastering Aikido to illustrate the long process of mastery. Maybe you’re an artist who doesn’t feel like you’re progressing or are endless plateau. This book takes you through those phases and explains what they are, what they mean and how to ride them out until the next break through. I particularly enjoyed the chapters where he covers the traps that we can fall into that distract us from our original goals. It’s all about the journey.
Path of Least Resistance: Learning to Become the Creative Force in Your Own Life, Robert Fritz
I took this book with me on a weekend retreat to the gulf islands this past summer and couldn’t put it down. This was originally published in 1984 but was later revised in ’89. Fritz has created a process that moves you quickly from imagining a goal or outcome to actually achieving it. He works on removing out inhibitors, so that you’re on a path of least resistance.
To break it down, do what you love, remove the hassles involved and get on with it. This one is the strongest of the bunch, but they’re all worthy of belonging in your library.