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6 Most Inspiring Books for the Creative Professional

books for motivation
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Motivation is like a greased pig. Just when you think you’ve gotten it, it slips right through your arms. There’s a popular saying that a dose of motivation is recommended daily, but I’ve learned it sometimes takes more than giving your reflection a pep talk. Sometimes you need major help to rediscover your motivation, overcome emotional and mental roadblocks, and find your courage.

When pep talks from both myself and my parents fail me, I turn to these six books—and they never disappoint. They whip my butt into shape, stir up an excitement to keep working for the dream, and, most importantly, urge me turn off Netflix.

When you need motivation for creativity, read Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.

As a best-selling author, Elizabeth Gilbert knows a thing or two about living a creative life. In this book, she discusses everything from overcoming fear to working through the slumps. She urges readers to do whatever creative thing, no matter what it is, simply for the fact that you must do it to be happy. She doesn’t want anyone to put too much pressure on their passion (Seriously, she begs readers not to worry about making a living through their passions), and to find joy in the creative process rather than look at it as a painful rite of passage to endure. She doesn’t want to be a tortured artist, and she doesn’t want anyone else to be either.

She ends the book with this summary:

“Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all of these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise — you can make anything. So please calm down and get back to work, okay? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”

After just five minutes with Big Magic, I find myself itching to grab the nearest pen and paper or to start slinging paint onto a canvas. Gilbert’s advice for being creative breathes an energy into my soul that I simply can’t ignore. The next thing I know, it’s the middle of the night and I’ve churned out 20 pages of the story that’s been giving me trouble.

When you need motivation for doing it your way, read #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso.

Like most 20-somethings, you’re probably well-acquainted with self-doubt and paralyzing uncertainty. The world is a tough place for women in their twenties—especially when it comes to our careers and taking risks. Sophia Amoruso knows how to fight through though, and she details how she overcame being completely lost and directionless to find her life’s passion on her own terms. She runs her business in the manner true to her, and she wants all women to work and live by their inner guides.

#GIRLBOSS is like a permission slip to do your own thing, in your own way, and on your own timeline. It’s a guide to figuring out what you want. It’s a push through the door to work your ass off for what you want. Amoruso doesn’t sugar coat the world for you.

When you need motivation to go for it, read The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna.

You know that dream you’ve been carrying around in your heart, but have never taken the real steps to make it a reality? Reading The Crossroads of Should and Must will give you that boost of faith and courage you’ve been searching for.

This book hasn’t become a sensation for nothing. It’s powerful because of the story behind it. Elle Luna took a leap to turn her art into her life’s work, and this book will motivate you to also recognize the difference between what you’ve been conditioned to do and what you must do to satisfy your inner calling.

From the words to the artistry, The Crossroads is a beautiful tool for discovering your inner motivation and calling. The entire book is worth quoting, but one particular question/image sits in the back of my head on a daily basis: “How long will you wait to honor who you are?“

book quote

Well, how long will you wait?

When you need motivation to stop procrastinating, read The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield.

There are days when we need light, pretty words to stir up our motivation, and then there are days when we need a swift kick in the butt. The War of Art is just that. Honestly, it’s like receiving a stern lecture from your parents, but instead of being punished, you’re being urged to be brave, be committed, and be a professional about your work. Pressfield isn’t pulling any punches with this one. He wants you to realize you’re allowing resistance (the evil force that tricks you into not finishing things) to hold you back from reaching your goals, and it’s largely related to fear.

Pressfield gives you the tools you need to recognize when resistance attacks, in all of its forms, and to beat it back everyday so you can do all of the things that you feel you’re meant to do deep down in your soul. There’s no such thing as an excuse in Pressfield’s opinion, and he’s right. As he says, you either do it or you don’t do it. That’s up to you.

When you need motivation to figure it out, read 20 Something, 20 Everything: A Quarter-life Woman’s Guide to Balance and Direction by Christine Hassler.

While some people are lucky enough to know their calling early on in life, that’s not a reality for everyone. Not everyone can choose a major or career path easily. Some of us, especially millennial women, are overcome with anxiety when trying to figure out what we want for ourselves and planning how to get it. In 20 Something, 20 Everything, Christine Hassler provides numerous exercises to help you discover all of that and let go of the things you think you’re supposed to want and do. These exercises are dotted with accounts from other women feeling the same kind of directionless anxiety to show this is a feeling most of us share.

This isn’t a book for you to read idly while cooking dinner; it’s a deep expedition into your heart and mind to find all of the answers you want. You’ll have to look closely at your desires, your fears, and the things that have been forced upon you. Three simple questions (Who am I? What do I want? How do I get it?) lead the entire book, but these questions will help you create the map you need to create the life you were meant to have.

When you need motivation to keep on trucking, read Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling.

Even the most passionate and determined of us have moments when we’re frustrated and disheartened at the success we haven’t had yet. Most people will give up in these moments and think that if they haven’t reached their career pinnacle yet then they never will. Don’t be one of those people. When you feel like this, read Why Not Me? so Mindy Kaling can remind you that you have to work hard for a long time to be successful.

Think you’re working long hours? Mindy Kaling’s worked long hours and that’s why she’s made it to where she is today. Think you should have received some kind of validation for your work already? Well, Kaling will be happy to correct you. As she says, “It’s just that, the truth is, I have never, ever, ever met a highly confident and successful person who is not what a movie would call a “workaholic.” We can’t have it both ways, and children should know that.”

Basically, Why Not Me? will remind you it takes an insane amount of hard work and dedication to follow and realize your dreams. It will suck at times, but you’re not going to accomplish anything if you quit.

When your inner motivation has taken off on an impromptu vacation, these books can quickly sub in to give you a flashlight through the dark times. Don’t let a lack of motivation or inspiration keep you from doing the work necessary for your dreams when all you really need is a little push from someone else. You’d only be doing yourself (and the world as Steven Pressfield and Elizabeth Gilbert would tell you) a disservice.

Follow Terra on Instagram: @terrabrown3

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Last modified on July 24th, 2017

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