There’s an elephant in the room everywhere I go. I don’t know if everyone feels it, but I do. Every one I come in contact with, whether it’s a friend or a colleague or a clerk at the grocery store, I can feel it. I want to say something, but in polite society, you don’t discuss politics, and the elephant is political.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to discuss it here. I just wanted to acknowledge the elephant and say hi to it. Yes we see you. But we have so much more to deal with. So I’ll just give it a polite wave and move on back over to you. (For international readers: YES. It’s tense over here in the States. On every side. We all feel it. But as an eternal optimist, I feel confident we will move forward, unite, and come out stronger.)
So the real issue is that everyone is on edge. And haven’t we all been there before? Life isn’t rosy all the time. We all go through stuff. And it’s those difficult times when I find creative work to be so much more important. Playing piano or writing poetry or drawing a portrait brings in joy no matter what else is going on in the world.
I believe that’s why artists often feel their lifestyle is selfish. Well. So be it. You need to take care of you. And the truth is, other people need your creativity, too.
The slogan of this blog is “Make Life Beautiful.” That’s because I don’t see music making as selfish. Music making at all levels makes the world more beautiful. When I’m walking my dog and I hear someone practicing scales it makes me happy for some reason! Likewise, when I hear someone masterfully playing a Beethoven Sonata, it fills me with joy.
So if you’re going through something, it’s more important than ever that you get yourself to that piano and start playing. If you want some motivation, I have a short list of my favorite books. Another peek into my life is this: When life gets tough, I also dive into books to help push me out of my funk.
Here are my 4 favorite books for creative inspiration:
The Creative Habit By Twyla Tharp
This book! This is my favorite. One of my favorite things about it is that it was written by a dancer/choreographer. Most books on creative inspiration are written by writers, and while it’s not that hard to switch out your creative medium for writing, you have to admit not every creative lifestyle is like that of a writer’s.
Twyla discusses all kinds of creative lifestyles and recognizes that everyone has to figure out their own kinds of rituals. She doesn’t try to prescribe one way of life for everyone, but at the same time, she doesn’t mince words. When listing fears that often plague the artist, she lists the common fear of “It’s already been done before.” Her response?
“Honey, it’s all been done before. Get over yourself.” Love it!
In her book she also have a few techniques on avoiding certain activities and replacing them with purposeful ones in order to get your mind ready for creative action. This is important, because it’s too easy to distract ourselves with Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, HBO Go… did I miss anything? Probably. It’s too easy to get distracted now. I find Twyla’s approach inspiring and just the right kind of kick in the pants I need to get focused.
Get it HERE.
The War Of Art By Steven Pressfield
I must have read THE WAR OF ART at least 4 times by now. It’s like my bible of creativity. It’s a short and easy book to read. Each chapter gets right to the point and tells you exactly what you need to do to get out of your creative block.
It’s called the WAR of art, because every day is a battle to fight distraction, insecurity, fear, RESISTANCE. There’s always something to keep you from that piano, isn’t there?
My favorite thing about this book is his use of the term “professional.” When I was growing up, we were taught a professional musician was one who got paid for their work. So when I was 18, I became a professional.
But according to Steven’s definition, I was pro before that. A pro is someone who shows up everyday and commits to developing their practice. Are you a professional or an amateur? Money has nothing to do with it.
Get it HERE.
Practicing: A Musician’s Return To Music By Glenn Kurtz
I found this book while wandering through Allen Ginsberg’s famous book store, City Lights, in San Francisco. If you find yourself in SF, you should definitely check out this place! The music book section alone is VERY impressive.
Anyway- I think adult readers of this blog will find PRACTICING especially inspiring. It’s about a classical guitarist who had a deep love for music. So deep he actually devoted his college years to studying it. But somewhere along the way, he abandoned music in order to take care of other adult responsibilities. Can’t we all relate to that?
But at some point, he decides to return to music. I find his descriptions of his practice sessions so inspiring. They make me want to take my own practice sessions much more seriously. They make me want to ritualize and create a sacredness around them.
Don’t let the fact that it’s guitar based sway you. The feeling of music practice is universal, no matter the instrument. Get it HERE.
The Artist’s Way By Julia Cameron
No list is complete without adding THE ARTIST’S WAY. Possibly the original book on creativity, this book is written for the spiritually inclined. It’s modeled after the 12 steps programs that exist for treating alcohol and drug addiction. Except in this book, the disease is blocked creativity.
In THE ARTIST’S WAY, you’ll learn how to find out where the blocks came from and how to heal them. This is a great book for anyone who feels hopeless about their creativity. It’s quite structured; with prescriptions such as Morning Pages (daily journaling) and The Artist’s Date (weekly solitary outings).
I worked through this book when I was very young. I have to say, it had a big impact on my life. Have you read this book? If so, please leave your comments below.
Order a copy HERE.
I love reading books about creativity. I know there are more out there, so PLEASE. Leave your recommendations in the comments below. Leave a link to Amazon so that we can order them. I’d love to build up my own library on this subject.
Remember to make time for creativity every day. A life without creativity is no life at all. Take care of yourself and each other.