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The Ultimate Creativity Reading List

Srinivas Rao, author of new release An Audience of One, has interviewed scores of creatives for his hit podcast. Here are his favorite books on creativity.
by Fionnuala Kavanagh | Aug 10 2018

Let’s face it: creative work is terrifying. Fears of exposure and of not being good enough stop a lot of people from even trying. But creativity, to paraphrase Maya Angelou, is not a finite resource. The more you use, the more you’ll have.

But sometimes it’s a fear of an imagined eventual audience that slams the brakes on creative work. That’s why Srinivas Rao wrote his latest release, An Audience of One, to help people forget the outside world and tap into their inner wells of creativity. Here are some other great books on creativity to help you kick things into gear.

1. Deep Work by Cal Newport

Multitasking is the enemy of productivity and in the age of technology with pinging emails, social media feeds and chat conversations, there is a whole host of distractions that pull our attention away from the task at hand. In order to enter a flow of deep, concentrated work that will enable you to finish reading that report, write your novel, or just get on with it then try Cal Newport’s productivity guide for shutting out distractions and harnessing your intention.

2. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Learn how to defeat your inner demons of self-doubt by taking advice from best-selling novelist Steven Pressfield. The War of Art is a treasure trove of tips for creatives, containing instructions such as “treat your dream like a full-time job” and “regard your fear as fuel for your success”. If you’re struggling to realize your creative passion because fear of criticism is getting in your way, then try this top creativity book for budding artists and entrepreneurs.

3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Get an insight into the life of a professional writer and find out how to establish a good creative work routine with this guide for professional and aspiring authors. Sprinkled with witty personal anecdotes and full of punchy advice, Bird by Bird teaches you how to overcome the dreaded writer’s block, create fantastic characters, and why it’s important to be honest with yourself and the reader about your true feelings.

4. The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

The Happiness Advantage… shows us that success orbits around happiness, not the other way around”. Bestselling author Shawn Achor spent twelve years at Harvard studying the connection between happiness and success and draws on his leading research into positive psychology to show readers how to harness their happiness. This book will help you understand why approaching life with a positive mindset will help you to excel.

5. Mastery by George Leonard

In order to achieve success and personal fulfillment you should abandon quick fixes, work on shifting your mindset, and pursue the lifelong journey of mastery. Author George Leonard draws on martial arts teachings to show readers how to internalize a philosophy that will sustain satisfaction and a thirst for learning that will continue beyond them reaching their goals.

6. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

Award-winning American choreographer Twyla Tharp shares her secrets for sustaining a creative flow and generating great ideas. You’ll learn why it’s important to copy the path of your role model, and how a box of filing cards can help you collect great ideas and build your confidence.

7. An Audience of One by Srinivas Rao

Srinivas Rao interviews top creatives and shares tips on how to get in a productive, artistic flow in his popular podcast Unmistakable Creative. In his new book Audience of One, Rao builds on themes explored in his podcast, advocating for removing any perceived audience from your mind and instead focusing solely on what you love to do. Worrying about how critics will receive you, chasing extrinsic rewards, or adapting your work to fit what you think will make you the most money is unfulfilling in the end.

By sticking to your vision and making something just for the joy of making it, you’re far more likely to create authentic work that will be recognized by a wider audience eventually. As well as strengthening your conviction that you should keep working on your dreams, An Audience of One contains tips on how to build a creative work environment and get yourself into a good working mindset.

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