I’ve always been interested in the creative process of others. I love getting a behind the scenes look and hearing stories of how people make the things that I love. Movies, music, games, food, writing, art. Everything made by humans is powered by creativity.
It has always bothered me to hear anyone say, “I’m not creative,” about themselves. You are creative! Every human has the capacity to be creative in some way. The keyword is CREATE!
Make a work of art, write an essay, make some dinner, draw a little doodle, come up with a home workout, sing in the shower, do something small in your boring job. These are all creative things we do. Most of us exhibit some form of creativity each and every day. And many of us don’t even notice it.
I’ve read many books on creativity. My favorites are the ones written by the creators themselves. It’s not as interesting to read a book on creativity written by some science doctor who’s just studying other people’s work. I want to hear it from the source.
I want a first-hand account of how the thing I love got made. I like to hear about the process. I enjoy watching the special features on my DVD and Blu-Rays. I’ve read books on creativity by musicians, comedians, actors and actresses, writers, even doctors and lawyers. I like to look for differences and similarities between different industries.
I for one have tried many different approaches to unleash my creativity over the years: writing in the mornings, drawing at night, taking short breaks mid day, meditation and yoga. Sometimes it’s good to have a schedule worked out, but it’s also helpful to surprise yourself and be spontaneous.
I want to share my thoughts on some of the creative books I’ve read or started reading over recent years:
by John Cleese
I recently finished this short book by John Cleese (Monty Python, A Fish Called Wanda). I enjoyed that it was a short biography followed by some creative tips and exercises. There were also some fun stories sprinkled in between. It’s an easy short read so I definitely recommend this book to everyone. Many of the tips and exercises were quick and simple. I even learned a few quick tips that I never really thought about.
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull
This was a fun history book about the beginning of Pixar and the troubles they experienced along the way to greatness. Ed Catmull, one of the founders, goes into what makes Pixar such a creative place and the practices in place to keep it this way. Letting people from different departments come in with fresh eyes to look at projects, and always being open about what’s going on in the company are just two reasons that make Pixar a special company. It’s just a great read even to learn a few creative practices that can be used in your own business or life. Also, I am a huge fan of Pixar movies, so there’s that.
Sweat the Technique
I’m currently reading this book. I thought it would just be a good read to learn how one of the greatest lyricists got to where he is, Rakim. I actually have learned a lot from this book. One important thing Rakim has taught me is to learn about everything. Rakim would read and study just to have more ammo for his rhymes. I don’t plan on becoming a rapper, but there are still some aspects of Rakim’s creative process that are helpful in my life. It’s important to not only learn about what you believe in, but also the opposite side of the coin (especially in a world where social media feeds us only exactly what we want to see and hear). It’s important to learn about new subjects, even stuff you don’t think you’ll care about.
by Jeff Vandermeer
I haven’t read enough of this one to give you enough information about it. I’ve only read a few sections. It was recommended by a writer I know. It’s a large book so I’m slowly reading a little at a time. This one is more focused on writing for fantasy and science fiction, but it’s a good way to learn about world-building, character creation and other aspects of that type of fiction. It also includes excerpts and short sections from many different authors and artists. People with tons of experience in their fields.
Embrace your Weird
by Felicia Day
I read Felicia Day’s first book, “You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)” which was a great read. It was more about her life and creating her web show The Guild. When I met her at Florida Supercon I told her how that book inspired me and she shared some “top secret” info with me. She told me that her new book would be announced in just a few days after meeting her. So, of course I pre-ordered her new book. Embrace your Weird is very different than the other books on this list. It’s more of a workbook. It’s filled with exercises where you get to write all over the pages of the book. Many of the exercises are idea-starters to get you out of your head.
by Yuri Lowenthal & Tara Platt
This last book has become very important to me. I first bought it and wanted to read it just because I was interested in Voice Actors and learning more about their lifestyle. I was listening to the “Talkin’ Toons” Podcast with Rob Paulsen and was obsessed with all of the great guests and their stories. While reading this, I was messing around with Voice Over stuff just to practice sustaining characters for longer periods of time (to help with on-stage characters for improv). After reading this book I wanted to do more with Voice-Over work and now I’m currently working on some secret projects. Yuri and Tara are also big names in Voice Acting and have many short anecdotes from their famous Voice Actor friends.
I think the main thing I’ve learned from all of these creative books is what Rakim taught me (which I also have read in other books). The best thing you can do is consume content from all over the place. Live your life but do things that make you uncomfortable too. Don’t just stick to things you like or are used to. Don’t write things off because you think you won’t like them.
Ever try listening to people with a different point of view? It may make you angry, but you don’t have to believe them. It’s good to study how other people think, or just to try and figure out why people so crazy sometimes…
It’s ok to not like things. It’s much better to try something out and make the decision to not like it on your own. Don’t just guess that you won’t like something. Listen to a podcast about gardening or something that sounds totally stupid to you and see what you learn.