Ideas of motivation and inspiration can often get tied up together. If we’re feeling stuck, or stifled, or just don’t know what to do next, we often chalk it up to a lack of motivation.
Are you lacking in motivation? Do you need to recharge your batteries? How about a little nudge in the right direction? We’ve got some titles that will help you to rethink and restructure your work, get over the hurdles of uncertainty, and inspire you into action.
So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport
Are you getting stuck because you’re not sure where to start? Have you been told that a dream job is just around the corner if you start doing what you love? This isn’t always the case, and can encourage people to hop from one trial passion to the next without any sense of direction. Cal Newport captures this phenomenon and urges you, his reader, to stop following your dreams and start thinking about what you’re really, really good at. His alternate path to success may be hard to hear, but it’s also super motivating and a great reminder that, chances are, you’ve already gotten started.
Back-up Recommendation: Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do by Chris Guillebeau, for those who need help to find one job or career that feels just right.
Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson
An author who made an impact in her time but whose star has not truly risen until recent years, Shirley Jackson is a fascinating figure who was published at the age of 32. She grew up with an emotionally abusive mother, had a long and difficult relationship with the author Stanley Edgar Hyman, and had many personal demons to deal with to boot. Despite these hurdles, she emerges as one of the best thriller writers of the century – and she even wrote this hilarious memoir of family life to give us an even deeper insight into her personality. It’s wryly funny, witty, entertaining, and a great reminder that all creatives have personal lives to work through, too.
Back-up Recommendation: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Little House series was similarly inspired by the author’s real life, and the first volume was published when Wilder was 64 years old. Sometimes a lot of life has to happen to us to inspire our best works.
Art and Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland
This book is a prescient reminder that art and fear go hand in hand. Penned by a pair of working artists, this is a book by artists for artists crating what they call “ordinary art”. It’s a grounded take on art and its makers. It grapples with daily problems of making art in the real world, the daily barriers the crop up and the reasons why art sometimes doesn’t get made. This realistic and thought-provoking read will help you through common obstacles and remind you that no artist is an island.
Back-up Recommendation: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron: a classic guide to of insights into how you can embrace your artistic process.
M Train by Patti Smith
Patti Smith’s her award-winning 2010 memoir, Just Kids, exposed the world to her coming-of-age in and around the art scene of New York in the 1960s. Her follow-up memoir M Train opens much later, in her favourite cafe in Greenwich Village, where she begins to ruminate upon her life through through eighteen “stations”. Her lyrical prose is a meditation on beginnings and endings that will make you feel motivated to make every experience of your life count. It’s an ode on every little aspect of life from coffee to travel to art, and her perspective is the perfect way to glean some inspiration from your own life to apply to your next project.
Back-up Recommendation: Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann, a memoir in narrative and images from an acclaimed photographer.
Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
Sometimes our motivation fails us when we get caught up in conventional ways of thinking. In Rework, two successful business owners present their unique way of thinking about how to run a business. Their simplified approach and straight-forward language make this an easy and enjoyable read that breaks down scary-sounding activities into easier, more digestible steps. It asks us to see our excuses for what they are and offers often counterintuitive ideas to help you rethink and rework your approach and stop feeling stifled.
Back-up Recommendation: Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace. This subtitle explains exactly what this book is about, and is authored by a co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios. It’s billed as a book for managers, but has all kinds of ideas for how you can up your game in any creative pursuit.