Almost everyone has a creative spirit—whether they believe it or not. Likewise, almost everyone goes through times of feeling disconnected from that creative spirit. Recently, a lovely woman came to the library looking for books to help her get started painting again. She was under some stress, applying for a new job, and she really wanted to get back to her painting but felt blocked. We explored some options, and she went home feeling enthused (and carrying a rather tall stack of books)!
Feeling blocked is not an uncommon experience for creative people. Most of my artist/crafter friends occasionally express frustration about feeling uninspired and somewhat “stuck” creatively. This is even more likely to happen when we are going through stressful times—which is when we need our creative outlets the most!
Many folks have a tendency to be self-critical. I don’t know about you, but my creativity flies out the window if someone stands over me finding fault with everything I do— even (especially) if that person is myself! It takes commitment and effort to be gentle with myself and find joy in the creative process. A few personal philosophies that help me create joyfully: 1) Have fun with the process and focus less on the finished product. 2) If I don’t like, it’s simply not done. (And if I don’t like it now—I might like it later after I’ve put it away and taken a break from it.) 3) It’s a learning process. It takes some playing/practice to develop any technique.
Here are some of my favorite books to jump-start and nurture creativity.
The Little Spark: 30 Ways to Ignite Your Creativity, opens a new window by Carrie Bloomston
This book is about living a creative life—not necessarily just for artists, crafters, etc. It is based on the premise that the “desire to make things is bigger than you”—that creativity is part of being human and everyone has a creative spark. With thirty exercises to help you gain the chutzpah needed to freely create, I really like this book!
Artist’s Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures, opens a new window by Cathy Johnson
I am a firm believer in using artist’s journals to gather ideas, record impressions, and try out creative techniques—even gathering bits and pieces of found objects that inspire me. This book is about really using an artist’s journal—not about creating a work of art and calling it an artist's journal.
Your Idea Starts Here: 77 Mind-Expanding Ways to Unleash Your Creativity, opens a new window by Carolyn Eckert
A great book to help you look at things more creatively. It is not focused on visual art, but instead applies to any type of creative thinking or problem-solving. Lots of wonderful prompts to shake you out of being stuck.
Journal Sparks: Fire Up your Creativity with Spontaneous Art, Wild Writing, and Inventive Thinking, opens a new window by Emily K. Neuburger
The premise is that your journal is YOURS to collect ideas and to use in any way you choose. Chock full of fun exercises and ideas for journaling!
Craft Activism: People, Ideas, and Projects from the New Community of Handmade and How You Can Join In, opens a new window by Joan Tapper
This is a such a fun book! It doesn’t propose to nurture creativity, but the contents are so fun and inspiring that it does so all the same. It focuses on a variety of artists that use craft for activism, and it offers a project that corresponds to each.
The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, opens a new window by Twyla Tharp
I have owned this book for a long time, and every time I pick it up I find something different that resonates with me. It helped me to learn more about my own unique approach to creative endeavors.
Here is a list that contains even more books on this topic: Jill's Picks for Nurturing Creativity, opens a new window
One more thing that has been tremendously valuable for me: getting together regularly with other creative people to share ideas, discuss our blocks and frustrations, workshop projects together, and teach each other new techniques. Lawrence is full of creative folk, and there are plenty of groups and guilds that you can join. At the library, we are working to compile a directory of local creative groups and guilds. When it is more complete, we will make it available to community members. If you have information about groups/guilds to add to the list, I would love to have that information. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And be sure to watch for creative programs for adults that take place at the library, such as Mindful Crafting, opens a new window, a recurring monthly program hosted by yours truly and other local artists/crafters. (Space is limited, and registration is required.)
-Jill Mickel is an Information Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.