Here’s something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile – create a reading list of my favorite books that have impacted me on my creative journey! I hope to continue to add more reading lists as the seasons go on. Without further ado, here’s my inaugural Reading List for Creatives:
fyi – all of the links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links. But only because I totally love these books and think they rock. Full disclosure at bottom of site.
If you only have time for one book on this list, make it this one. Steven Johnson looks deeply into the perfect environment for increasing creativity and innovation. As a pattern designer, I found this topic intriguing and wondered what I could do to improve my own environment. He argues that openness and the free flow of ideas best facilitates creativity and new innovations. Johnson discusses what this looks like in different environments – nature, the science lab, the workplace, and the notes of an individual. I am particularly in love with this book because he openly challenges the benefits of copyright & patent law.
My favorite quote(s):
“If there is a single maxim that runs through this book’s arguments, it is that we are often better served by connecting ideas than we are by protecting them.” (Kindle location 22)
“Protecting ideas from copycats and competitors also protects them from other ideas that might improve them, might transform them from hints and hunches to true innovations.” (Kindle location 124)
“Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down, but keep your folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle, reinvent. Build a tangled bank.” (Kindle location 246)
If you are selling, displaying, or publishing your creative work in any way, and live in the United States, then this is a must-read. While I philosophically believe in a very open copyright system, the fact of the matter is that I live in America, and work within the laws in this country – so I need to have basic, working knowledge of copyright law in order to keep everything on the up & up businesswise. This book is written for photographers, but any creative would benefit from reading it. Co-authored by a photographer and a copyright lawyer for artists, this book is chock-full of substance, while written in a way that is completely accessible to the general public. The authors discuss your rights, what your rights don’t include, how to protect and fight for those rights, and specific court cases & examples to clearly support these explanations.
“While the definition of a “derivative” is put forth clearly and simply in the Copyright law, in real life it may be difficult to pick it out of a lineup. Both reasonable (and unreasonable) judges, juries, and just plain folk can and do disagree on just what is and what isn’t a derivative work.” (Kindle Location 271)
In a world full of big brands and box stores, Sarah Petty explores what it means to be a small business owner of a specialty brand. How can a small business act as a David against Goliath? In Worth Every Penny, Petty effectively argues that small business owners will always lose the price competition – so they must win in other ways in order to succeed. No more sales, discounts, or underpricing yourself in order to be competitive! She details how branding, services, products, marketing, and appropriately pricing yourself will serve your business. She encourages you to price yourself in a way that you will succeed financially, and then find ways to demonstrate to your clients that you (your products and services) are worth that price. Exemplary customer service, creative offerings, and authority within your market will drive quality-conscious buyers to your door. WalMart may have it’s place, but so does Saks Fifth Avenue. This is an especially vital read for those creatives who sell their work or services, and nicely supplements the “Sew Worth It” discussion.
My favorite quote(s):
“You can beat your competition by catering to the niches, not to the masses.” (Page 9)
“You can’t be open twenty-four hours, but you will give them ten times the service and experience when you are open.” (Page 62)
“Yes, you come with ‘worth it’ products that people will pay more for. And no, you aren’t for everyone…It all boils down to the fact that as a boutique, you don’t offer the same thing as your discounting competitor. So you shouldn’t be offering the same price.” (Page 84-85)
“Here’s the CliffsNotes summary of the social science research in this area: There are many complex reasons for workplace satisfaction, but the reductive notion of matching your job to a pre-existing passion is not among them.” (Kindle location 272)
This book is a collection of short reflections on genius, creativity, ingenuity, cooperation, design, and the development of ideas. It’s an absolute must-have for all creatives, and can be read both for enjoyment, in a long reading session, and kept on hand for daily reflection. There are 46 reflections, including: “What is a genius?”, “How can I innovate?”, “Design quickly, decide slowly”, and more. Everything within is fairly obvious, and yet, stated so powerfully and concisely that you’ll feel completely refreshed by it. Neumeier’s messages can be described as nothing short of wisdom.
My favorite quote(s):
“You can be a genius all by yourself, but a genius without a community is not as powerful as a genius within a latticework of kindred spirits.” (Rule 44, Join a Network)
“You can carve out quiet time to think things through by yourself, so that when you return to the world you have something deep and whole to show for it. Working alone doesn’t mean being lonely. It doesn’t even mean being alone. But it does mean paying attention, listening to your own voice, and listening to the voices of others with sustained focus.” (Rule 39, Stay Focused)
“If you steal an idea cleverly enough, the theft will go unnoticed. While stealing is not as hard as exercising pure imagination, it still takes a mental leap to see how an idea from one industry or discipline could be adapted to another.” (Rule 9, Approach Answers Obliquely)
Greg McKeown makes the case for decluttering your life. I didn’t realize I needed to declutter my life until I read this book – and now I fully appreciate the point of saying “no” in order to say “yes”. He discusses the busyness of our modern day lifestyle, the purpose and result of living essentially, and then he delivers practical advice on how to become an essentialist. This is not a pie in the sky idea, but an attainable way of life sure to give you greater joy and fulfillment. McKeown also combats misconceptions many of us may have about working hard, delving into topics like the importance of sleep and how overworking makes you less productive. I’ll admit that I was skeptical when I began reading, but this book has deeply altered my view of hard work and what it should look like. It’s greatly helped my creative journey, enabling me to focus on what really matters. McKeown delves through topics such as owning less, exploring more ideas before jumping, taking time to escape and be unreachable, reserving time for relaxation and play to positively impact the hours working, and valuing relationships with your loved ones.
My favorite quote(s):
“Is it at all likely you will wake up one day and say, ‘I wish I had been less true to myself and had done all the nonessential things others expected of me’?” (Page 28, Chapter 1)
“We must summon the discipline to get rid of options or activities that may be good, or even really good, but that get in the way.” (Page 159, Chapter 13)
“Eliminate multiple meaningless activities and replace them with one very meaningful activity.” (Page 161, Chapter 13)
Gideon Amichay describes his journey of pitching cartoons to The New Yorker only to be turned down – for years. He looks at what the word “no” meant – how he reacted to those rejections, how he used them to improve, and eventually, how they turned into a “yes”. This is a quick read, and is a great reminder that public successes are often built on top of thousands of failed attempts. These failures – these “nos” – are simply part of the journey. It is written in a meandering, recollective/memoir style, rather than an autobiographical style, thus encouraging the reader to consider his or her own rejection letters in a positive way.
My favorite quote(s):
“One must embrace the roadblocks, not react to them, and it is at this very place where his genius emerged and flourished.” (Forward)
“No is a part of life. Usually, NO comes with a comma…No comma, ‘we don’t have the time.’ NO comma, ‘we don’t have the budget.’ ….There are many types of NO commas…No comma has great power. Every NO comma is a treasure. Every NO comma is a great opportunity to search for the next yes.” (Location 179 – 184, Kindle version)