There has been a wide variety of books written on the topic of creativity. Below are some of our favorites. We hope that after reading them they will become some of your favorites, too.
Soul Pancake (2010) by Rainn Wilson et. al.
Rainn Wilson, Devon Gundry, Golriz Lucina, and Shabnam Mogharabi have written an eye-opening and visually stunning book that challenges us to speak our mind, unload our questions, and figure out what it means to be human. Throughout the book and the images they present, the authors pose stimulating questions and creative challenges that provoke us to move beyond our daily musings and delve deep "beneath labyrinthine thought tunnels where the questions pile in heaps" (Saul Williams, p. 1).
Pick up a notebook and, in words and images, play with their questions: What drains your soul? What recharges it? What is one thing you learned that blew your mind? Would you be fine with nine? What's one lie you're glad you told? Do you have to experience doubt before you can experience certainty? See more on the soulpancake website: http://soulpancake.com/
What It Is (2006) by Lynda Barry
What It Is is a hilarious, illustrated book that encourages us to take the time to ask ourselves and answer the important and often quirky questions that arise for us as we live our lives. Lynda Barry visually and verbally plays with such questions as "What is an idea made of?"; "Can we remember something that we cant imagine?"; "What are thoughts?"; "Can a toy exist without a person?"; and "Does your imagination know what year it is?". Her book is a wild exploration of simple yet deep questions. And as you take in her colorful illustrations and thoughts, you find yourself answering the questions she poses for yourself and coming up with some insightful questions of your own. Lynda also helps us to work through the barriers and excuses that often prevent us from achieving our creative goals and dreams by sharing her own stories.
She writes: "The time for it is always with us though we say I do not have that kind of time. The kind of time I have is not for this but for that. I wish I had that kind of time. But if you had that kind of time, would you do it? Would you give it a try? This kind of doing both takes and gives time - makes live the dead hours inside of us".
"But how do you begin it. Begin by setting two timers. Set one for 50 minutes and the other for an hour. Start by noticing what one hour is."
A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future (2006) by Daniel Pink
Dan Pink beautifully describes how in order to be successful and make an impact in today's conceptual age, we all need to develop high touch and high concept aptitudes. High concept is "the capacity to detect patterns and opportunities, to create artistic and emotional beauty, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into something new". High touch involves "the ability to empathize with others, understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one's self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch beyond the quotidian in pursuit of purpose and meaning" (p. 2-3).
Dan discusses six senses that we can all develop to increase our right brain (or what he calls our r-directed) thinking:
(1) Design: Create something beautiful, whimsical, and emotionally engaging.
(2) Story: Do not just present data and information. Be persuasive, seek self understanding, and develop a compelling narrative.
(3) Symphony: See the big picture, patterns; cross boundaries and combine disparate pieces into an arresting whole.
(4) Empathy: Understand what makes humans tick, forge relationships, and care for others.
(5) Play: Laugh. Be lighthearted. Use humor. Create and enjoy games.
(6) Meaning: Pursue more significant desires. Seek purpose, transcendence, and spiritual fulfillment. (p. 60)
Dan presents exercises in his book to help us further develop each of these six senses. "They are all things we do out of a sense of intrinsic motivation. They reside in all of us and need only to be nurtured into being" (p. 247).
Orbiting the Giant Hairball (1996) by Gordon Mackenzie (Creative Paradox at Hallmark)
Reading Gordon Mackenzie's book is like paging through his own personal sketchbook. Through his fun, poignant stories and his whimsical illustrations, Gordon shares some of the insights he gained in his 30 year career working within Hallmark with a wit that will have you laughing through his entire book.
Gordon warns us not to allow ourselves to become entangled by the hairball that is society and many of the organizations in which we work. Instead of being pulled into the "world honey-combed with the (bureaucratic) established guidelines, techniques, methodologies, systems, and equations that is at the heart of (the) Hairball's gravity", we should orbit around it; be responsible to it, but not controlled by it (p. 32).
He describes that when we are born, we each come into the world with a blank, pristine rolled up canvas. "Knowing that you do not yet have the skills to do anything meaningful with your canvas, the big people take it away from you and give it to society for safekeeping until you have acquired the prescribed skills requisite to the canvas' return. Society proceeds to draw pale blue lines and numbers all over the virgin surface (of your canvas). Eventually, when the canvas is returned to you, it now carries the implied message that if you will paint inside the blue lines and follow the instructions of the little blue numbers your life will be a masterpiece. But this is a lie" (p. 223).
We need to "reject (the) prescribed plagiarism of somebody else's tour de force" and find the masterpiece inside of us. "If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece, it will not get painted. No one else can paint it. Only you" (p. 224).
Creativity, Unleashing the Forces Within: Insights for a New Way of Living (1993) by Osho (Spiritual Leader)
In his deeply insightful book, Osho writes, "Humanity has come now to a crossroads. We have lived the one-dimensional man, we have exhausted it." (p. 1). What the world needs now is a more enriched human being, a three dimensional one. Osho calls for the three C's: (1) Consciousness: Being; (2) Compassion: Feeling; and (3) Creativity: Action.
He distinguishes between action and activity. Action comes out of a silent, clear mind. It is the most beautiful thing in the world. Activity comes out of a restless, unfocused mind. It is the ugliest. Action is relevant, moment to moment, spontaneous, responsive, creative. Activity is irrelevant, loaded with the past, obsessive, destructive to you and others. We should be aware and work on dropping more and more activity to make room for consciousness and compassion. "And when you have the opportunity to act totally, don't miss it, don't waver - act" (p. 15).
The Five Obstacles we must overcome are:
(1) Self-consciousness: Once you drop your ego, you drop all defeat, all frustration, and all failure. Infinite strength will start flowing through you (p. 70).
(2) Perfectionism: The ego always wants to be higher and better than others. The real artist simply allows himself to let go and whatsoever happens, happens (p. 74).
(3) Intellect: The expert, the knowledgeable, the intellectual has no insights of his own. He depends on borrowed knowledge, tradition, on convention. Great awakening of the heart instead will lead to creativity (p. 84).
(4) Belief: Belief is always closed. Openness means you put aside your beliefs and you are ready to look at life again and again in a new way, not with the old eyes (p. 91).
(5) The Fame Game: We are taught that unless there is recognition, we are nobody, worthless. Yet our work is what should be most important, a joy in and of itself. You should work because you love the work and enjoy being creative (p. 102).
The Universal Traveler: A Soft-Systems Guide to Creativity, Problem Solving, and the Processes of Reaching Goals (1993) by Don Koberg and Jim Bagnall (Architect and Environmental Designer)
Through rich metaphors, Koberg and Bagnali present the design process as a journey and excursion that can help us to to maximize our creative problem solving. They dedicate a fun-filled chapter to each of the sequence of events, or what they term "Energy States", involved in the design process:
(1) Accept the situation: State initial intentions and accept the problem as a challenge.
(2) Analyze: Get to know the ins and outs of the problem. Discover what the world of the problem looks like.
(3) Define: Decide what we believe to be the main issues of the problem. Conceptualize and clarify our major goals.
(4) Ideate: Search out all the ways of possibly getting to the major goals. Consider a multitude of alternatives.
(5) Select: Compare our goals with the possible ways of getting there. Determine the best ways to go.
(6) Implement: Give action or physical form to the selected "best ways".
(7) Evaluate: Determine the effects or ramifications as well as the degree of progress of our design activity.
They offer valuable tips as we begin our journey:
Design is a process of making your dreams come true. Once you decide what you desire to be improved, it's almost certain that you will find ways to make it happen.
Talking about it needs to be balanced with trying it out. Theory and practice combine for wholeness.
Subjective emotions precede objective knowledge. Only experience provokes learning, and we only know what we feel to be true from experience. The rest is conjecture.
Present Moment, Wonderful Moment (1993) by Thich Nhat Hahn (Vietnamese Buddhist monk)
In his inspiring handbook of gathas, or mindfulness verses, Thich Nhat Hahn describes how we often get so busy that we forget what we are doing or even who we are. "We forget to look at the people we love and to appreciate them, until it is too late. Even when we have some leisure time, we don't know how to get in touch with what is going on inside or outside of ourselves" (p. vii). So we turn on the TV or pick up the phone as if we might be able to escape from ourselves.
"To meditate is to be aware of what is going on - in our bodies, our feelings, our minds, and in the world. When we settle into the present moment, we can see beauties and wonders right before our eyes. We can be very happy just by being aware of what is in front of us" (p. viii).
Thich Nhat Hahn's book provides gathas like the one below that we can practice so we can live our entire lives in awareness. "We can find more peace, calm, and joy, which we can share with others" (p. viii).
The mind is a television
with thousands of channels.
I choose a world that is tranquil and calm
so that my joy will always be fresh. (p. 71)
Einstein's Dreams (1993) by Alan Lightman (Novelist and
Professor of Humanities at MIT)
In his fantastical book, Alan Lightman takes us into the realm of Einstein's dreams. His beautifully lyrical novel presents 30 small fables which have us imagine what life would be like if time behaved differently. He writes of a world in which time flows more slowly the farther you are from the center of the earth. "No houses can be seen in the valleys or the plains. Everyone lives in the mountains... To get the maximum effect, they have constructed their houses on stilts... Height has become status... In time, people have forgotten why higher is better. Nonetheless, they continue to live on the mountains, to avoid sunken regions as much as they can, and teach their children to shun other children from lower elevations. They tolerate the cold of the mountains... and have even convinced themselves that thin air is good for their bodies... the populace has become thin like the air, bony, old before their time (pp. 22-24). In his other fabled lands, time flows backwards; people live just one one day; cause and effect are erratic; there is no time, only images; and people have no memories. Lightman's stories will have you questioning your perceptions of what is possible and what you understand to be reality.
Dancing Corndogs in the Night (1998) by Don Hahn (Producer, Disney Animation, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King)
In his delightfully insightful book, Don Hahn addresses the pursuit of happiness. He discusses how many of us put our dreams on a shelf and never return to them. "In essence, (we are) living a lie by denying (ourselves) the parts of (our) life that give (us) joy" (p. 31). Some people, however, know exactly what their "flame, (their) torch, (their) personal condiment" is and live it daily; they create with "astounding brilliance" (p. 39).
Don poignantly discusses how do they do so. Through:
Craft: They master their craft; pay attention to it, learn it, assert their creative vision.
Chaos: They understand that it is not the chaos that creates but how they choose to react to the chaos.
Balance: They thaw out their frozen mental attitudes and reopen interests that might bring balance to their lives and wholeness of thinking.
Simplicity: They see the elegance in simplicity and see beyond the crushing details of the real world to see the simple underlying ideas upon which life is built.
Spectacle and Surprise: They peer through the muck and mire of everyday life in search of unexpected surprises that bring the possibilities for a happier life; they create the unforgettable.
Light: They create to bring things into light; they openly accept the gift from a greater source.
Curiosity: They cultivate an insatiable appetite for all things interesting then bring the knowledge gained from that curiosity to their very specialized field of focus.
Truth: They first openly experience the truth of creation without rushing to comprehend its components.
Creativity Revealed (2008) by Scott Jeffrey
Scott Jeffrey has written a deeply insightful book in which he helps us to discover the source of inspiration. He describes our ego as "a forever wanting animal" (p. 142). "In order to understand creativity, we need to understand the programs the ego is constantly running in order to transcend them" (p. 143). Jeffrey astutely identifies four weapons that the ego uses to assert and protect its identity:
Positions: Once our mind decides and believes "this is it", we negate all other potentialities. We should cultivate our humility and acknowledge that we know very little. In this way, we remain open, flexible, relaxed, and creative.
Judgments: "The inner critic cleverly sabotages our development and, left unchecked, will continually drain the joy from one's life experiences" (p. 150). If we develop compassion for ourselves and others, we will seek to understand instead of condemn and create a kinder, gentler, more easy going way of living and being creative.
Opinions: Our opinions are our ego's vanities. They reflect our self-centered reality and prevent us from understanding the context of a situation. Through humility, we acknowledge our self indulgence, set aside our opinions, and consider the context and possibilities.
Attachments: When material things become part of our identity, we come to believe they will bring us happiness. If we see through the ego's desires and cravings, "we naturally discover the eternal spring of joy within - the joy of existence itself" (p. 156).
Here are just some books that we have found of particular interest recently:
A Natural History of the Senses
by Diane Ackerman
(1990, Vintage Books)
A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future
by Daniel Pink
(2006, Riverhead Hardcover)
Art & Fear: Observations of the Perils and Rewards of Artmaking
by David Bayles and Ted Orland
(1993, The Image Continuum Press)
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
by Malcolm Gladwell
(2005, Little, Brown and Company)
Caffeine for the Creative Mind: 250 Exercises to Wake Up Your Brain
by Stefan Mumaw and Wendy Lee Oldfield
Change by Design
by Tim Brown
(2009, Harper Business)
Connecting to Creativity
by Elizabeth Bergman and Elizabeth Coltman
(1999, Capital Books)
Corporate Legends and Lore
by Peg Neuhauser
(1993, McGraw Hill)
Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius
by Michael Michalko
(1997, Ten Speed Press)
by Howard Gardner
(1994, Basic Books)
Creativity and Personality Type
by Marci Seagal
(2001, Telos Publications)
Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
(1996, Harper Perennial)
Creativity: Theories and Themes: Research, Development, and Practice
by Mark A. Runco
(2006, Academic Press)
Drawing on the Artist Within
by Betty Edwards
(1999, Fireside, Simon, and Schuster)
Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation
by R. Keith Sawyer
(2006, Oxford University Press)
Finding the Voice Inside
by Gail Collins-Ranadive
(2002, Skinner House)
How to Be An Explorer of the World
by Keri Smith
Inspirability: 40 Top Designers Speak About What Inspires
by Matt Pashkow
(2005, HOW Design Books)
Living Out Loud
by Keri Smith
(2003, Chronicle Books)
Making Ideas Happen
by Scott Belsky
Managing Creativity and Innovation (2003, Business Essentials Harvard)
Moving Towards Life
by Anna Halprin
Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative
by Ken Robinson
Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul
by Stuart Brown
(2010, Avery Books)
Present Moment, Wonderful Moment
by Thich Nhat Hanh
(1990, Parallax Press)
Reason for Hope
by Jane Goodall
(1999, Warner Books)
Soul Pancake: Chew on Life's Big Questions
by Wilson, Gundry, Lucina, and Mogharabi
The Art of Wonder: A History of Seeing
by Julian Spalding
(2005, Prestel Publishing)
The Artist's Way
by Julia Cameron
The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures
by Dan Roam
(2008, Portfolio Hardcover)
The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World
by Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson
(2001, Three Rivers Press)
The Design of Business
by Roger Martin
(2009, Harvard Business Press)
The Designful Company
by Marty Neumeier
(2008, New Riders)
The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent
by Richard Florida
The Imagineering Way
by The Disney Imagineers
(2005, Disney Editions)
The Imagineering Workout
by The Disney Imagineers
(2005, Disney Editions)
The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
by Betty Edwards
The Pixar Touch
by David Price
The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life
by Richard Florida
(2003, Basic Books)
The Sound of Paper: Starting from Scratch
by Julia Cameron
(2004, Penguin Group)
The Story Factor (2nd Revised Edition)
by Annette Simmons and Doug Lipman
(2006, Basic Books)
The Ten Faces of Innovation
by Tom Kelley
(2005, Currency Doubleday)
The Way of the Storyteller
by Ruth Sawyer
(1990, Penguin Books)
The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century
by Thomas Friedman
(2006, Farrar Straus Giroux)
by Jane Piirto
Understanding Those Who Create
by Jane Piirto
Walking in This World
by Julia Cameron
(2003, Tarcher, Putnam)
Ways of Seeing
by John Berger
(1977, Penguin Books)
What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Today's Leading Thinkers on the Unthinkable
by John Brockman
(2007, Harper Perennial)
What It Is
by Lynda Barry
(2008, Drawn and Quarterly)
Where Good Ideas Come From
by Steven Johnson
(2010, Riverhead Books)
Writing the Natural Way
by Gabrielle Rico