1. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo: This book has sold 2 million copies, and I waited six months for it on the library hold list before I got my hands on a copy. It's big idea is to declutter and organize your house in a single sweep. The big question that Kondo encourages you to ask again and again when tidying is: "Does it spark joy?"
I was a skeptic, but did the entire tidying process outlined in the book this weekend and last and have felt my apartment and peace of mind transform. After donating, throwing away and recycling nearly 20 bags (and that's just a small city apartment folks), I felt lighter. My space looked cleaner, but the true difference I've noticed has been in my focus. I have always had a hard time sitting down to write, to read, or even to watch a movie without thinking about the small series of messes that I had in various rooms, closets, and drawers. This morning, I sat down and wrote two scenes for my play I'm working on and answered several emails, all while sitting in my newly cleaned artist den, which now feels inspiring instead of chaotic. Success.
2. The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career by Lucy Maud Montgomery: The author of Anne of Green Gables writes a very brief (96 page) account of her career, which she refers to as a "long, uphill struggle through many quiet, uneventful years." Her honestly and authenticity is so refreshing, and while she does look upon her life as a creative journey full of joys, she doesn't sugarcoat her various day jobs, waking up at dawn to write before her days as a teacher, or personal struggles.
The whole book is lovely, but it's the end that gets me every time. Maud tells us "We must follow our "airy voices," follow them through bitter suffering and discouragement and darkness, through doubt and disbelief, through valleys of humiliation, and over delectable hills where sweet things would lure us from our quest, ever and always we must follow, if we would reach the "far-off divine event" and look out thence to the aerial spires of our City of Fullfillment." Trust me, it's well worth a read.
3. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: As a Liz Gilbert fan, most people I know are never surprised to hear me quote this wise and wonderful author and speaker. A dear friend sent me a copy of her newest book in the mail this summer, and I read it in a weekend. If you are looking to get your butt kicked into creative gear, look no further. Short essays and plenty of humor comprise this creative manifesto that is chock full of essay titles such as "Hard Labor vs. Fairy Dust", "Elk Talk", and "Hungry Ghosts". The book isn't just aimed at artists, but anyone looking for more magic and creativity in their daily life.
One of my favorite quotes from her on persistence: “We must understand that the drive for perfectionism is a corrosive waste of time, because nothing is ever beyond criticism. No matter how many hours you spend attempting to render something flawless, somebody will always be able to find fault with it. (There are people out there who still consider Beethoven’s symphonies a little bit too, you know, loud.) At some point, you really just have to finish your work and release it as is — if only so that you can go on to make other things with a glad and determined heart. Which is the entire point. Or should be.”
4. The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron: Originally published in 1992 and often considered one of the most essential books on creativity, my copy (gifted by my best friend over a decade ago) is dog eared, beat up, and well loved. The book guides you through a 12 week course to recover a sense of safety, inspiration and courage in your creative life. Even though Cameron is a professional actress, writer, playwright, and filmmaker herself (she was married to Martin Scorcese a while back), she make it clear that creativity does not equal pay, a full time job, or permission from anyone else.
The book is full of suggested activities, such as a daily solo walk, a weekly artist date, and daily Morning Pages, where you journal in a stream of consciousness style to unearth your hidden creative desires and longings. It's a dramatic endorsement, but this book is responsible for me attending Emerson College, founding my theatre company, and a host of other small daily joys that feed my creative soul. You can get your hands on a copy on Amazon for nearly nothing, so go on--do it!
A favorite quote: “Focused on process, our creative life retains a sense of adventure. Focused on product, the same creative life can feel foolish or barren.”
5. Free For All: Joe Papp, The Public, and the Greatest Theater Story Ever Told by Kenneth Turan & Joseph Papp: This book is a phenomenal account of the founding of The Public Theater in New York City, most famously known for it's free Shakespeare in the Park each summer in Central Park. Written in the form of personal remembrances from figures such as Kevin Kline, Christopher Walken, Colleen Dewhurst, Meryl Streep, and Joseph Papp himself, the book takes you through the early years of the theater rehearsing in church basements to its days touring the NYC boroughs to perform Shakespeare for free for audiences who had never even seen a play before.
To say this inspires me every day as someone who runs a small theatre company is an understatement. Papp's commitment to providing free Shakespeare to the people of NYC still holds fast today, even after his death. He believed that theatre was a necessary part of the cultural life of the city and should be treated as such in regards to funding and accessibility.
One of my favorite quotes: “In the general scale of things, certainly it’s important to take care of basic necessities… But part of the spiritual life of the city is its art, its plays, so you are creating a false distinction. I always used to say that Shakespeare should be as important as garbage collection, and I liked having a line on the budget that was close to things that were necessities to the city…. That’s what I think art should be: part of the city, part of everday life.”
Tell me, what are some of your go-to creative reads? I'd love to hear and add them to my ever-growing list :)