When I first started writing again, 7 years ago, I voraciously read as many books about writing and creativity that I could get my hands on. This is a perfectly valid thing to do, both because of the encouragement you get from other writers, and also for information about craft, grammar, and general writing advice.
Since then, I have read a lot of books about writing and creativity, some of which I’ve found more useful and entertaining than others. I’m constantly looking for inspiration and rather than give you a list of the usual ‘advice’ books (like Stephen Kings ‘On Writing’ or Natalie Goldberg’s ‘Writing Down the Bones’, both great), these are the ones that I’m currently reading or have read and found useful as a budding indie author and creative entrepreneur.
1. Everything I Know by Paul Jarvis
Paul Jarvis’s book is a great and inspirational read if you want to set up your own business or be an independent author. It takes an unconventional look at what it means to do business that aligns with your own style and values, and how you don’t have to fit a certain mould in order to have your own business. I wrote a post about my thoughts after I read the book: Monday Night Inspiration: Everything I Know by Paul Jarvis.
2. Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff Vandermeer
I’m currently reading this book, and it’s fantastic. Again, another unconventional book, this one is packed full of inspiration, essays, advice, illustrations, and offbeat creativity. It’s a big book, and has something for everyone. It might be more slanted towards people writing fantasy, science fiction and supernatural, or magical realism, but the essays and advice are often universal.
3. The Kick Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig
Okay, so I’m a fan of Chuck Wendig’s humour, and his excellent advice is delivered with that trademark humour. It’s both a fun and an extremely useful book, for indie and traditionally published writers alike. If you’re easily offended, maybe not the best choice for you (or at least not whilst you’re at work!), but the laughter makes the messages stick.
4. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
I like this book simply because it is a great reminder of how we can anchor habits and create routines and rituals. I love the way Twyla Tharp writes and the way that she talks about how to build habits. The exercises are useful and thoughtful, and the layout of the book is lovely – minimalist but gives you space to think.
5. The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
The Art of Asking is a wonderful book, about connection, creativity and courage. The core message of the book is about how creativity is about the connection we make with the people who consume our work, online, in person, and through other networks. It is also about how to create authentically, to share that art with other people, and build community. I wrote a longer post about it here.
6. How to Make a Living With Your Writing by Joanna Penn
I’m making my way through this book and have already found it the perfect book for my current and future plans – both inspiring and practical. In fact, the practical aspect of it is what is so inspiring. She lays out the various ways you can approach writing for a living, mostly through being an author-entrepreneur (ie. independent publishing – working with freelance editors and cover artists to create a product and publishing yourself through various online and print on demand retailers). She also walks through the various other ways you can earn a living, such as blogging, freelancing, and marketing various services, as well as creating online courses and so on.
7. The Writer’s Guide to Psychology by Carolyn Kaufman
This is a great book because it’s one-of-a-kind. It’s about psychology – about the various treatments, types of psychological issues that a character might have, different types of therapy, and what it is like to be a psychologist – so you can write about these things in fiction. One of my characters is a psychologist, so it’s important to me that I know how everything works and I don’t slip up with clichéd mistakes. It is also great for understanding your characters more deeply and for understanding diagnoses such as PTSD, the difference between psychopathy and sociopathy, and what they might look like.
8. The 3am Epiphany and The 4am Breakthrough, both by Brian Kiteley
Both of these books are interesting – Brian Kiteley is the director of the creative writing programme at a US university, and I think the advice and exercises in these books are great. Particularly if you’re looking for something different and challenging. They were some of the first writing books I bought but amongst the best.
And books I haven’t read but come recommended:
9. Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer by Jeff Vandermeer
Since I’m really enjoying Wonderbook, I’ve also looked this up and I’m looking forward to reading it soon.
10. Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur by Joanna Penn
This is a bigger, expanded book with all the information you need to know about being an indie author. I’m hoping to read this after I’ve finished How to Make a Living With Your Writing.
I’m also going to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, and will review that in the new year.
I know this list is just the tip of the iceberg, considering how many books there are about writing and creativity, but these ones in particular have been useful and inspiring over the past year. Let me know your recommendations!