Must Reads for Writers, or anyone who wants to write well enough to call themselves a “writer.”
So I’ve been getting a LOT of questions lately on what books I’d recommend for developing the creative habit, and specifically the writing habit. This evening, I perused my very long book shelf – there’s a lot of Aristotle and Plato there, you guys – and asked myself what books and texts were the most meaningful and impactful to my development as a writer and artist.
Here they are —
The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran
Why? Being a good writer is about more than putting together delicious sentences. It’s about having the power to access emotion. Doing so requires that you truly “get” the human condition. Gibran breaks it all down with his inspirational, philosophical poetry – all organized by topic. It’s a beautiful read that will make you reflect on what you believe, and what you believe matters to your target clientele. #necessary
The Alchemist, Paolo Coelho
Why? You won’t find a modern narrative with a more perfect structure than The Alchemist. This is worth reading before, and then again after you read more about narrative structure and how it all works (more books on those below!). The first time, you won’t see the story machine working its magic, much like when you watch a great film and it whisks you away to a totally new world. But the second time, you’ll be amazed at the power of a perfectly told story.
Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke
Why? You don’t choose writing, writing chooses you. Being an artist and a writer takes a level of selfishness that is hard to defend. Rilke does so gorgeously as he explores the nature of writing, and the meaning of love in all of it. These books are not ranked in any particular order, but this is by far my #1.
The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron
Why? This is the bible of creativity as far as I’m concerned. Before there were creativity coaches there was Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way – walking you week by week through your blocks, explaining why certain people cockblock your flow, and making you commit to your inner artist. Doing the Artist’s Way is like opening a portal to your soul – and connecting with that is the best way to start understanding your client. (Hint: They have a soul with some intense desires too!)
The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
Why? Steven Pressfield takes a more masculine approach to the lifestyle of writing, and it’s one I wholeheartedly agree with. In short, he says “show up and do the work.” But beyond that, he breaks down writer’s block by demystifying it, using the term “Resistance,” and teaching you how it works. A must-read if you want to master your ability to write on demand.
The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell
Why? This is the quintessential book on narrative structure, and what myth and modern psychology have to do with one another. Ready to blow your own mind by learning how STORY taps into our psychology in a totally timeless way? Joseph Campbell is the ticket, and these rules also apply to sales copy.
The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler
Why? If Joseph Campbell is a little too much or too academic for you, Christopher Vogler is here to help! With this book, he’s taken all those teachings, and broken them all down to make them more applicable. Storytelling treat for you! Think of this as Joseph Campbell Cliff Notes on steroids. Plus, he adds his own special spin with more on simply being a writer.
Why? It’s a classic. If you don’t understand catharsis, you don’t understand how stories and writing can create emotional responses. Don’t worry. You won’t get tested on this.
How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie
Escape from Freedom, Erich Fromm
Why? Understanding human psychology and sociology is necessary for sales. This is one of my favorite books on the topic of freedom. As more and more programs and products sell the idea of “freedom,” I think it’s becoming even more necessary to learn how humans have avoided freedom at all costs throughout history. This will give you a shit ton to work with when you’re looking for sales motivators.