5 Essential Books for Artists & Creators

by | 6 Aug, 2020 | Recommendations

Reading Time: 6 mins

You might be an artist who is struggling with creative block, lack of productivity, self-discipline. Or you might be an artist who is creating every day, but the success needle isn’t moving. Or you want to take your creativity, productivity, and success to the next level. In either case, the books for artists & creators mentioned here are no less than magic, and they will give you superpowers as an artist.

1. War of Art by Steven Pressfield

If you could read one book ever, it should be this. If you could read two books ever, then you should read this twice.

For artists, the word procrastination isn’t right. We don’t procrastinate; we face something else. We’re capable of doing everything, but something stops us from doing the most important thing.

We can still be creative, disciplined, and work hard, but we can’t get ourselves to do the most important thing. Something stops us, something powerful.

Steven Pressfield recognized that something, defined it for us, explained its characteristics, and gave us tools to defeat it.

He calls it Resistance. And we’re are war with it for every single day of our life.

It doesn’t matter what work you do; you deal with resistance every single day, and the sooner you start winning the battles against it, the sooner you’ll be happy and the better your life will become.

I read this book every few weeks to get grounded, get clarity, and re-orient myself to work productively.

Buy the ebook, paperback, audiobook every version of this and always keep it around you.

This one book is critical for all creators to read.

Steven Pressfield writes every Wednesday on his website, and it’s always refreshing, inspiring, and informing content.

2. Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins

Real Artists don’t Starve is one of the most underrated books in the creative space.

The book explains how the myth that “Artists Suffer and barely get by.“ is false.

It debunks this myth with historical and modern examples of how artists don’t need to starve and make a good living off their creative talents.

The 12 principles in the book tell you the difference between a Starving Artist and a Thriving Artist. Each chapter is based on one of these principles in the book:

  1. The Starving Artist believes you must be born an artist. The Thriving Artist knows you become one.
  2. The Starving Artist strives to be original. The Thriving Artist steals from his influences.
  3. The Starving Artist believes he has enough talent. The Thriving Artist apprentices under a master.
  4. The Starving Artist is stubborn about everything. The Thriving Artist is stubborn on vision but flexible on details.
  5. The Starving Artist waits to be noticed. The Artist cultivates patrons.
  6. The Artist needs no one. The Thriving Artist finds a scene.
  7. The Starving Artist always works alone. The Thriving Artist collaborates with others.
  8. The Starving Artist does his work in private. The Thriving Artist practices in public.
  9. The Starving Artist works for free. The Thriving Artist always works for something.
  10. The Starving Artist sells out too soon. The Thriving Artist owns as much of his work as possible.
  11. The Starving Artist does one thing. The Thriving Artist does many things.
  12. The Starving Artist despises the need for money. The Thriving Artist makes money to make more art.

An essential book for every artist, this will change your mindset. And as you work on the above principles, success will become inevitable.

Goins writes regularly on his website and has an active podcast called The Portfolio Life with Jeff Goins.

3. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

You’ve probably heard about this one.

Steal Like an Artist is one good-looking, fast reading, fun, and idea-packed book.

The idea is simple: Nothing is Original, nothing ever was, and nothing ever will be. Stop acting like it is, and start stealing as good artists do.

Steal from anywhere, steal from everywhere, steal every day.

This book will get you past the imposter syndrome. And then give you easy-to-digest ideas/hacks to make your best art, become more productive and get yourself heard.

Ten chapters of the book are:

  1. Steal like an artist.
  2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.
  3. Write the book you want to read.
  4. Use your hands.
  5. Side projects and hobbies are important.
  6. The secret: do good work and share it with people.
  7. Geography is no longer our master.
  8. Be nice. (The world is a small town.)
  9. Be boring. (It’s the only way to get work done.)
  10. Creativity is subtraction.

Great value in a little package, and Austin Kleon presents his book in one of the most creative ways. This book is an experience in itself.

4. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

I started reading this book five years ago. It was supposed to be a 12-week course to help you recover your creative self. I’m still on week 3, and I think I’ll be staying here for a few more months at least.

My life has been transformed so much, just by the one activity mentioned in the book. Julia calls it Morning Pages; I call it Write Your Mind.

It’s the act of writing whatever comes to your mind, no matter how random it is, how grammatically incorrect it is, how ethically wrong it is, or how good it is, every day. The idea is to write without letting your brain judge the content.

Now her idea is to help artists get past writer’s block with this activity, but it’s so much more. It does much for you that you can’t even imagine the benefits when you do it consistently. I’ll have to write a dedicated article about that.

This activity alone will give you much value that buying the book will be worth. I’m getting value from the first few chapters of this book, every day for the last few years. The rest of the chapters have more gems waiting. I’m set for at least a decade.

The book will give you immense clarity. It will help you clear the self-doubts, self-criticism, and worries about time, money, and support to pursue your creative dreams.

Julia Cameron writes on her website.

5. Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

If there’s one thing that most artists are unanimously bad at, it’s self-promotion. This book is for my kind of people.

The Successor to Steal Like an Artist. Austin says, “If Steal was a book about stealing influence from others, Show is about influencing others by letting them steal from you.”

It tells you to put yourself and your work out in the world. Build an audience by sharing the process of making your art. You don’t have to be a genius; just become a documentarian.

The ten chapters are:

  1. You don’t have to be a genius.
  2. Think process, not product.
  3. Share something small every day.
  4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities.
  5. Tell good stories.
  6. Teach what you know.
  7. Don’t turn into human spam.
  8. Learn to take a punch.
  9. Sell out.
  10. Stick around.

Like Steal Like an Artist, this book is small, easy to read, striking to look at, and packed with tons of valuable content.

Austin writes regularly on his blog.


These are the five books that I’ve found most valuable to me on my artistic journey till now.

Do you have experience with these books? Should any other books for artists or creators be on this list? Leave a comment below to let me know your experience.

Reach Your 100% Potential as a Creator!

Subscribe for Articles & Resources about Productivity, Creativity & Success

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *