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There used to be a huge Barnes & Noble bookstore a short drive from my office, back when I still worked in an office. On the days when I just had to escape the world of tech and management to reconnect with my creative artist heart, I’d go there on my lunch break and wander the aisles. Usually I’d end up in what I thought of as the creativity corner. Three shelves intersected there. One shelf held the art biographies, and books on art technique books, graphic design and typography. Another had crafts – from wood working to knitting and quilting – and the third had the books that were harder to classify. How to get unstuck, how to keep an art journal, 100 ideas for things to draw.
I loved that corner, and over time quite a few of those books came home with me.
Here are 5 of the books I’ve turned to over and over, especially since leaving the corporate world and becoming a mother. Each has a slightly different focus, so whatever kind of creativity you are seeking in your life, one of these is sure to fit the bill.
If You Need A Creative Self Care Practice
Liz is a friend of mine, but I bought this book before I got to know her in person. If you read her blog, many of these practices will sound familiar. These are also the roots of how she leads her wonderful Be Present retreats (where I will be this weekend!). If you are not able to attend a retreat, this book is the next best thing. She walks through the tools she uses to slow down, be present, and look inward to understand who she is in the world in this moment of her life. These are tools that she (and now I) return to over and over again when life begins to swirl or my emotional footing feels uneven.
If you only have room in your attention or budget for one creativity book, this is the one I’d recommend. it is so rich.
If You Write (Or Want To)
When I first became a mother, I started scouring blogs and Amazon for writing by mothers whose experience mirrored my own. At first that was enough to help me make some sense of it, but quickly I realized I needed also to write it out. What started as journaling and letters to my daughter took forays into freelancing for parenting magazines and then this blog.
Whether your goal is to blog, to write for print magazines, or craft personal essays or memoir, this workshop-in-a-book can set you on your way. The author covers different kinds of forms on the topic of parenting and motherhood, the ethics of writing about our children as characters, how to write about the hard stuff, and how to simply craft the arc of a story. Each section includes exercises to get your pen to paper (the most important part of writing, of course), and samples by mother-writers.
Bonus recommendation: If you want to write about your life but need prompts to get you started, I love the book Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg. http://amzn.to/1u430bT
If You Want To Get Your Kids Involved
I’ve been following Jenny Doh since she was Editor In Chief at Stampington. I recently found her Instagram feed and am newly convinced that she’s one of the most creative women sharing her work on the internet right now.
She’s published a number of books at this point and this is one of 2 or 3 of hers I own. It is a compilation of essays on creativity in the family and accompanying projects by 20 popular bloggers. What I love about this book is that it illustrates that there are many ways to be creative, and many ways to share your creativity with your children. I learned so much just from reading about how each of these women puts creativity in the center of their lives.
The projects are also fun, and are appropriate for a range of ages. Most are pretty straightforward, so don’t be scared off if you don’t have a lot of supplies or specific skills. They point is to play together, not to make something perfectly beautiful following a pattern.
If You Want to Jump Start Your Own Creativity
The cover of this book has a recommendation from SARK that begins, “The Creative License is a leaping burst of enthusiasm…” and I have to agree. This book is colorful, exuberant, and joyful. If you want to learn to draw, want to keep an illustrated journal of your life, or just want a way to slow down and record the small moments, this book will launch you there.
This is not a book to sit down and read cover to cover. I doubt you’d be able to any way. Each section is so inspiring and full of ideas that I can’t keep it in my hands – I have to set it down and go draw something, make a mark, try something.
If you need a jolt of electricity to be more creative, get back to art, or juice up what you are creating now, try this book.
If You Are Grieving or Struggling
The back of this book says, “Sharon Soneff demonstrates….how the process of journaling can be a tool in navigating through some of life’s more difficult or challenging seasons.”
Personally, motherhood has been the most challenging season in my life thus far. Not to mention that the act of raising a small person brings me face to face with all my old unhealed stuff on a regular basis.
While writing is certainly a way to work some of that stuff out, I find that journaling in a visual way gives me access to even deeper awareness and healing. There’s something about turning off my logical, language brain, and being in images, color and texture that is incredibly powerful.
With examples, stories, creative exercises and worksheets, the author shows you how to use a visual journal to explore and work through difficult emotions and experiences.
Soneff has a background as a scrapbooker, so her sample journals may be less daunting than Gregory’s books if you are scared of art journaling or don’t feel like you are very creative yet. But there are plenty of messy, painty examples, too!