My Favorite Books: On Writing and Creativity

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When I speak with fellow artists/writers/comedians/lovers of creativity, I find myself recommending these books, each of which has changed my life. I hope you enjoy them, and I hope you’ll share your book recommendations in the comments!

“The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield 


Recommended to me by: Fellow comedy writer, Hasna Maznavi, when I was venting to her about writer’s block.

Why I love this book: If “acceptance is half the battle,” this book helped me concretely understand my fears that lead me to procrastinate, so that I could accept them and move on to the “do the work” part.

I recommend this for: Anyone seeking self-discipline, in creative and non-creative endeavors.

Recommended format: e-book or paperback. Buy it here.

“Big Magic: The Art of Creative Living” by Elizabeth Gilbert 


Recommended to me by: My teacher and classmates during a writing workshop.

Why I love this book: I love Gilbert’s philosophy on “creative living” or creativity as a way of life:

When I talk about “creative living” here, please understand I am not necessarily talking about pursuing a life that is professional or exclusively devoted to the arts. No, when I refer to “creative living,” I am speaking more broadly. I’m talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.

I recommend this for: Anyone who enjoys creativity, regardless of how much time they dedicate to it or how much they minimize their creative spirit.

Recommended format: e-book or paperback. Buy it here.

“Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg


Gifted to me by: My friend May.

Why I love it: I need clear directions in order to visualize a process (or goal, or game, or sport) from beginning to end, or I will be completely and hopelessly lost. When I first recommitted to writing, I felt like the writing process was elusive. Where do I begin? What should I write? How many pages or hours count as a hard day’s work? I didn’t know where to end, because I didn’t know where to start. This book changed that for me.

In it, Natalie teaches about daily “practice writing,” which she compares to “composting”:

Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds, and old steak bones of our minds come nitrogen, heat, and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories. But this does not come all at once. It takes time. Continue to turn over and over the organic details of your life […]. We must continue to work the compost pile, enriching it and making it fertile so that something beautiful may bloom and so that our writing muscles are in good shape to ride the universe when it moves through us.

Many of the ideas I’m working on today are ideas I wrote about during practice writing sessions months and years ago. I totally believe in “practice writing” and composting, which takes the pressure off of creating an end product, and on to doing the daily work of being an artist, which is much more manageable and far less daunting.

Recommended format: e-book or paperback. Buy it here.

“Steal Like An Artist” and “Show Your Work!” by Austin Kleon

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How I heard about it: I came across this one on filmmaker Justin Mashouf’s instagram.

Why I love these books: It’s like an Art Doctor therapizing me. I walked away with a dozen solid ideas and philosophies to infuse in my work.

I recommend this for: Artists, people who wish they were artists, entrepreneurs, and anyone who’d like a dose of creativity to drive their projects.

Recommended format: definitely paperback. Buy it here and here.

“On Writing Well” by William Zinsser


Recommended to me by: My dear friend and journalist, Yasmin Nouh, when I told her I wanted to step up my writing game.

Why I love this book: It finally helped me understand the value and art of editing. Before, I hoarded my words like they were the last bits of creativity I had left. After, I felt free to rewrite, shape, and delete, until I found what I meant to say. I learned how to put on my editor hat and be an editor for myself.

I recommend this for: Writers and people hoping to gain a perspective on the art of subtraction / editing.

Recommended format: e-book or paperback. Buy it here.


I hope you enjoy these books and draw benefit and inspiration from them! If you’ve read them and have some thoughts to share, or have book recommendations to add, please do.

7 responses to “My Favorite Books: On Writing and Creativity”

  1. […] Austin Kleon shares lists like these, and I’m kind of obsessed with his books, so here’s my […]

  2. […] rule for myself, because I’ve been going crazy. Inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic: The Art of Creative Living. Criticalness can be heavy, negative, tiring, isolating. Curiosity can be light, inquisitive, […]

  3. Thank you for the recommendation! I am a newbie… and hence don’t have any of my own recommended books about writing. When I come across one, will for sure drop by :)

  4. What a great blog. So much of inspiration all at one place. This was really enriching especially for the fact i just happened to explore the “acceptance” thing in my recent blog. So that piece of information here hit a chord with me. I am hoping to go through all these books definitely. Thanks for putting it all together. Bless you.

  5. Some great picks!

    1. Thank you! Would love to hear if you have a favorite or any recs to add!

  6. Great suggestions – some I have seen before but while I used to LOVE to read, things changed and now I’d add it to my list of procrastination. But some of these summaries have made me decide to start back up and read at least one that can help me. It was you that did this. Thank you.

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