There is a special place in my heart for books written by creative professionals, especially those in the arts. They have the ability to convey an embodied experience of their creative practice, along with hard-earned wisdom that benefits the reader. Each of these books was published in 2016, and each has an author who is a professional in the arts. These books provide fresh approaches to developing creativity and overcoming barriers that block you.
Myth of the Muse: Supporting Virtues That Inspire Creativity
By Douglas Reeves and Brooks Reeves
The Reeves argue that creativity is not spontaneous or inborn but a process that can be cultivated. They have written a gem of a book based on the idea that cultivating the seven virtues —curiosity, versatility, synthesis, discipline, collaboration, experimentation, and tenacity— will inspire creativity
Each virtue is a thought-provoking meditation conveyed through a kaleidoscope of perspectives, including art, culture, history, science, and education. I particularly like the questions for reflection and discussion, as well as the practices for experimentation. While The Myth of the Muse is written primarily for K-12 educators, it is definitely worth reading for your own personal development, as well as developing your creative leadership capabilities.
Douglas Reeves, PhD, is the author of more than 30 books on leadership and organizational effectiveness and Brooks Reeves is an award-winning actor and musician.
Creative Strength Training: Prompts, Exercises and Personal Stories for Encouraging Artistic Genius
by Jane Dunnewold
This beautifully illustrated book promises to help you reconnect with your creativity and make a deeper connection to your artist-self. Dunnewold provides a variety of strategies that combine fun writing exercises and hands-on art-making to help you overcome creative stumbling blocks, develop a unique voice and make creating art a regular habit.
Most interesting to me are her chapters on Creating Alignment, and Making Work Distinctively Your Own, which includes 10 exploratory exercises for making art that stands apart as uniquely yours. My one complaint about the book is the poor typography, which makes the book hard to read. There should be more emphasis on designing for readability, than showcasing artwork.
Dunnewold is a practising artist, and teacher as well as the author of numerous books on artistry and creativity. If you need a fresh approach to your creative practice, I encourage you to try her exercises. You can buy Creative Strength Training on Amazon
Putting Art to Work
By Keith Chirgwin and Helene Chirgwin
Putting Art to Work is a visual arts-based learning resource for coaches and facilitators, designed to foster personal and professional development, and encourage innovation and creative problem-solving. The book contains 31 hands-on activities or workshops, along with instructions on how to facilitate and debrief each activity.
As a pioneer in arts-based learning, with a speciality in the visual arts, I am deeply interested in this topic and I am intrigued by the Chirgwin’s approach to art. Keith Chirgwin is a retired art educator and Helene Chirgwin is an HR consultant and coach. Their perspectives on art-based learning are based on years of experience in coaching, teaching, and managing change; and this really shines through in their writing.
One of the strengths of their book is the context they provide to help you understand art, facilitation and coaching processes. This context will give you deeper insights into art practices and how these can enhance your own coaching or facilitation. The book is richly illustrated with photographs, which help you see what they mean—all very congruent for a book on visual learning.
My one complaint about the book is the lack of typographic design. The lines of text are too long for easy reading, and some of the layouts and labelling are confusing. This is a self-published book and truly a labour of love. I hope the authors enlist a typographic designer for their next edition.
I recommend this book if you are interested in exploring visual art as a tool for learning and development. It will also make a nice compliment to Orchestrating Collaboration at Work.
Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk: And Other Truths About Being Creative
by Danielle Krysa
As the publisher says, “This book is duct tape for the mouth of every artist’s inner critic. Silencing that stifling voice once and for all, this salve for creatives introduces ten truths they must face in order to defeat self-doubt” Danielle Krysa provides helpful tips on overcoming creative blocks, based on her years of experience working with professional and aspiring artists. She shares her wisdom with quirky humour embellished by whimsical illustrations created by Martha Rich. This is a lovely “how-to” book, although I personally don’t want to pick a fight with my inner critic, and would never call it a jerk.
I do feel Krysa and I are living in a parallel universe. The day I received her book in the mail, was the day Inc.com invited me to be a columnist. After the initial excitement, I was faced with a blank page, a due date, and a huge creative block, which I proceeded to write about for my first column.
Krysia described a similar experience in the introduction to her book. When she was given the green light by the publisher – her excitement to get started devolved into procrastination, then into a full on panic attack. What a perfect beginning to writing a book about your inner critic!