You might be an artist who is struggling with creative block, lack of productivity; self-discipline. Or you might be an artist who is creating everyday but the success needle isn’t moving. Or you want to take your creativity, productivity and success to next level. In either case, the books mentioned here are no less than magic and they will give you super powers as an artist.
1. War of Art by Steven Pressfield
If you could read one book ever, it should be this. If you could read two books ever, then you should read this twice.
For artists, the word procrastination isn’t right. We don’t procrastinate, we face something else. We’re capable of doing everything but something just stops us from doing the most important thing.
We can still be creative, disciplined and work hard but we just can’t get ourselves to do the most important thing. Something stops us, something powerful.
Steven Pressfield recognised that something, defined it for us, explained its characteristics and gave us tools to defeat it.
He calls it Resistance. And we’re are war with it for every single day of our life.
It doesn’t matter what work you do, you deal with resistance every single day and the sooner you start winning the battles against it, the sooner you’ll be happy and the better your life will become.
I read this book every few weeks to get grounded, get clarity and re-orient myself to work productively.
Buy the ebook, paperback, audio book every version of this and always keep it around you.
This one is critical.
I repeat, This one is Critical.
Steven Pressfield writes every Wednesday on his website and its always, refreshing, inspiring and informing content.
2. Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins
One of the most underrated books in the creative space.
The book explains how the myth that “Artists Suffer and barely get by.“ is false.
It debunks this myth with historic and modern examples of how Artist’s don’t need to starve, and can make a good living off their creative talents.
The 12 principles in the book tell you the difference between a Starving Artist and a Thriving Artist. Each chapter is based on one of these principles in the book:
- The Starving Artist believes you must be born an artist. The Thriving Artist knows you become one.
- The Starving Artist strives to be original. The Thriving Artist steals from his influences.
- The Starving Artist believes he has enough talent. The Thriving Artist apprentices under a master.
- The Starving Artist is stubborn about everything. The Thriving Artist is stubborn on vision but flexible on details.
- The Starving Artist waits to be noticed. The Artist cultivates patrons.
- The Artist needs no one. The Thriving Artist finds a scene.
- The Starving Artist always works alone. The Thriving Artist collaborates with others.
- The Starving Artist does his work in private. The Thriving Artist practices in public.
- The Starving Artist works for free. The Thriving Artist always works for something.
- The Starving Artist sells out too soon. The Thriving Artist owns as much of his work as possible.
- The Starving Artist does one thing. The Thriving Artist does many things.
- The Starving Artist despises the need for money. The Thriving Artist makes money to make more art.
An important book for every artist, this will change your mindset. And as you work on the above principles the success will become inevitable.
3. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
You’ve probably heard about this one.
This is one good looking, fast reading, fun and idea packed book.
The idea is simple: Nothing is Original, nothing ever was and nothing ever will be. Stop acting like it is, and start stealing like good artists do.
Steal from anywhere, steal from everywhere, steal everyday.
This book will get you past the imposter syndrome. And then give you easy-to-digest ideas/hacks to make your best art, become more productive and get yourself heard.
10 chapters of the book are:
- Steal like an artist.
- Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.
- Write the book you want to read.
- Use your hands.
- Side projects and hobbies are important.
- The secret: do good work and share it with people.
- Geography is no longer our master.
- Be nice. (The world is a small town.)
- Be boring. (It’s the only way to get work done.)
- Creativity is subtraction.
Great value in a little package and Austin Kleon presents his book in one of the most creative ways. This book is an experience in itself.
4. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
I started reading this book 5 years ago. It was supposed to be a 12 week course to help you recover your creative self. I’m still on week 3 and I think I’ll be staying here for a few more months at least.
My life has been transformed so much, just by the 1 activity mentioned in the book. Julia calls it Morning Pages, I call it Write Your Mind.
It’s the act of writing whatever comes to your mind, no matter how random it is, how grammatically incorrect it is, how ethically incorrect it is, or how good it is, everyday. The idea is to write without letting your brain judge the content.
Now her idea is to help artists get past writer’s block with this activity but its so much more. It does much for you that you can’t even imagine the benefits when you do it consistently. I’ll have to write a dedicated article for that.
This activity alone will give you much value that buying the book will be worth it, I’m getting value from first few chapters of this book, everyday from last few years. The rest of the chapters have more gems waiting. I’m set for at least a decade.
The book will give you immense clarity. It will help you clear the self doubts, self-criticism and worries about time, money and support to pursue your creative dreams.
Julia Cameron writes on her website.
5. Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
If there’s one thing that most artists are unanimously bad at, it’s self-promotion. This book is for my kind of people.
The Successor to Steal Like an Artist. Austin says “If Steal was a book about stealing influence from others, Show is about influencing others by letting them steal from you.”
It tells you to put yourself and your work out in the world. Build an audience by sharing the process of making your art. You don’t have to be a genius, just become a documentarian.
The 10 chapters are:
- You don’t have to be a genius.
- Think process, not product.
- Share something small every day.
- Open up your cabinet of curiosities.
- Tell good stories.
- Teach what you know.
- Don’t turn into human spam.
- Learn to take a punch.
- Sell out.
- Stick around.
Just like Steal Like an Artist this book is small, easy to read, amazing to look at and packed with tons of valuable content.
Austin writes regularly on his personal blog
These are the five books that I’ve found most valuable to me on my artistic journey till now.
Do you have an experience with these books? Should any other book be on this list? Leave a comment below to let me know your experience.