Creativity is one of the most important tools for actors. We know that reading can help one to become more creative. These ten best books on creativity for actors have been mentioned by other artists and creative folk as the foundation of all creativity books.
We have previously discussed the nature vs. nurture concept of creativity for actors. We know that creativity can indeed be learned (or mastered by oneself), so naturally, one of the most effective ways to expand your imagination and become more creative is simply to read.
What do you read? Start by going through our list of necessary acting books on technique as well as acting business books. We also have a list of best plays an actor should read to be at least the basic level of well-read thespian. Here are some of those lists I talk about:
- 5 Books Every Actor Must Own on Acting Techniques
- 5 Books on the Acting Business
- 10 Best Books to Expand Your Imagination
- 25 Most Important Plays Every Actor Should Read
The below “how to become more creative” books are perfect for actors who don’t feel like reading about the craft or the business of acting. These creativity books are very detailed and life-changing resources not only for actors but for anybody else involved in arts or just wanting to become a more creative person.
And even if none of these books peak your interest, grab some fiction book and spend an hour a day reading that. Books are an integral part of a working actor’s life. They expand imagination, teach you about the world and the people, and ultimately make you a better actor overall.
10 Best Books on Creativity for Actors
The Artist’s Way
by Julia Cameron
The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity book has been my go-to guide for whenever I used to feel that I will never make it in this business. It’s a book about opening yourself up and letting go of whatever is inside you: all your creative thoughts and ideas.
I’ve seen it being recommended by many working actors and celebrities as something they’ve thrived on whenever there was a need for creative inspiration. Jenna Fischer in particular expressed her fascination with this book and how it helped her in many ways on her acting journey.
“This 229-page book is actually a course to free your creativity. The entire course is based upon the principle that the artist must have faith to be creative. It is the author’s conviction that the Creator encourages creativity in all people. The book is broken down into twelve weekly lessons. There are several miscellaneous sections. Each weekly lesson has tasks and exercises to be completed. Sidebars provide quotes and tidbits of information to uplift the soul.”
Steal Like an Artist
by Austin Kleon
Creativity can be inspired by anything that surrounds you. Austin’s book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative is all about that, and it provides an abundance of amazing exercises, be-creative plans, guides, messages and examples of how can actors be more creativity in today’s digital age.
The book teaches how nothing is original, and how you can embrace that fact in order to start creating something out of everything. Remixes, influences and inspirations is what makes up today’s creative actor.
“I am not a creative person. I want to be. I think like most people I want to create something. I want to write something. Create something. While searching for something new in the books section of Amazon.com I hit on this title. I knew nothing about Austin Kleon. I am not a poetry fan so I did not know about the Newspaper Blackout book. I actually judged this book by it’s cover (and the description to be honest). I read it in an hour (you can too – it is a short book). Then I read it again much more slowly and with a highlighter. Most of what he writes about may be trite to those “in the know” but for me this book said I could go into the world, find something I love and tweak it bit to make it mine.”
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
This book will make any actor really think. While it’s not a self-help book in the most general senses, it has a similar air around it. Mihaly’s Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience is about focusing on your inner life and grasping the fundamental concepts of it which in turn results in a more creative life when done right.
It’s not simply about becoming a creative actor, but also about finding happiness in life (of which creativity is a big part). This book is more generic, but a definite recommended read for anybody looking to open themselves up for a good dose of creative inspiration.
“Know from the get-go that “Flow” is NOT a step-by-step book that gives you tips on how to be happy. Instead, the book summarizes years of research, so what you get when all is said and done, are general principles along with examples of how people have used them to transform their lives. The hope, then, is that you will have enough information in the book to make the transition from principles and theory, to actual practice.”
The Creative Habit
by Twyla Tharp and Mark Reiter
Twyla is an artist, choreographer, producer of Broadway musicals, and in The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life she shares her secrets on how can one become a more creative human being in a day to day life. The book talks about how creativity is a product of preparation and you need to work on it.
It provides explanations and advice on the best course of action to achieve higher creativity levels for actors and all other artists alike. You will learn how to establish your own ritual of getting “into the zone,” and how to merge this procedure with your daily activities.
“This is an excellent guide to mastering the creative life for any creative professional (or as Tharp suggests, it’s for any personal creativity as well). Full of great anecdotes, excellent quotes, usable activities and exercises, and most importantly, full of advice and questions that make the reader reassess their goals and their career. The book is thin and some pages occasionally have larger text for emphasis, but don’t let that deceive you. It’s a vast storehouse of knowledge: ranging from Mozart, to Dostoevsky, to childhood photographs, to how to keep your creative activities organized and so on and so forth.”
by Stephen King
Every actor must be a writer. But if you can summon the courage and patience to become a writer in reality, at least be one on the inside. King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is indubitably the best book about the writing process I’ve ever read.
Stephen King’s genius and simplicity shines through in this writing guide which can easily become a source of creative awakening for many artists. On Writing is about the craft, the grammar, the creative process, the ideas and the story – all of these can be applied in virtually the same way to your acting career.
“I found through this book that King doesn’t outline, that he places characters into bizarre situations and writes to get them out of it, he doesn’t rely as heavily on plot as some. He gives advice to new writers on literary agents, discusses the importances of re-writes and then gives an indepth-description of how he does his, including at the end of revised example in the second draft of “1408”. Much love is given to his wife, Tabitha, listing her as his ideal reader. King discusses the importance of having a select few to give their ideas on your book before sending it off. He spends a chapter discussing so called creative writing courses and groups, not dismissing them outright but rich in his common sense as he honestly shares his viewpoint on how they may not help you grow.”
The War of Art
by Steven Pressfield
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles is a step-by-step guide of sorts that will teach actors on how to break out of grey patterns and let your creativity flow.
The book focuses on art in general, and the author Steven Pressfield explains how to succeed in most artistic endeavors using his techniques and advice. The War of Art is engaging and germane; author doesn’t waste time with too many theories, but instead presents tips on how to expand your mind and start working towards greatness in life through the use of your imagination and inner creativity.
“Pressfield offers a prescription for defeating Resistance. You must, he says, become “a pro.” But he does not mean that in the sense of earning a living at the work, in the sense of being a member of a certain profession, or in the sense of being looked up to by your peers. Rather, he simply means showing up every day with your lunch pail and getting to work. Much of the book has to do with how you make this transformation so that you can do the work that you are called to do.”
Manage Your Day-to-Day
by Jocelyn K. Glei
Although the book is aimed at people mostly stuck in their daily routines, looking to break free from the grey days and old habits, any actor looking for creative inspiration will find plenty of useful advice here.
Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind comprises tips and advice from twenty different authors who specialize in psychology, self-help and anything related to opening oneself, becoming vulnerable, letting your imagination flow and breaking the gates of creativity. Always a great addition to your creativity books for actors library.
“Since I read these types of books/articles a lot, I was surprised to find so many new insights – and to actually feel energized. I’m guessing it’s because instead of being “the one method you must use”, there are very many viewpoints, tips and suggestions. Some of them seem contradictory – like work for hours vs work in short blocks – but as you read the essays, some will resonate with you as “the way” that will work for you.”
by Tom Kelley and David Kelley
Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All seems to be written for people in the business industry, but that’s not to say that actors can’t get anything useful out of this material.
There’s plenty: David and Tom Kelley explore a variety of psychology-based principles that, once mastered, will allow you to tap into your creative brain in order to enhance your day to day life, as well as your performance work. The book is also about success, productiveness, ambition, happiness and everything similar that comes to those actors who are ready to be more creatively confident.
“Creative Confidence is more than an interesting read – it is a call to action. Before being exposed to the IDEO approach to innovation, I would never consider myself as particularly creative or entrepreneurial, but after understanding creativity as something intrinsically human, and a muscle that can be trained, I experienced first hand what a structured approach to innovation could do for my own social business. The Kelley brothers’ refreshing take on creativity kills the myths of what it means to be innovative, and sees creativity as something that simply needs the right channels through which to be unleashed.”
A Whack on the Side of the Head
by Roger von Oech
Humorously titled A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative is a straight-to-the-point manual on creativity for people in any field, from business and plumbing to acting and producing. This book is completely different from anything listed in here, and possibly from what you’ve ever read.
It’s full of great illustrations, tips, exercises, puzzles, ideas, questions, quotes, metaphors and other material that is aimed to do one thing and one thing only: open up your mind and allow the creativity to simply flow. It’s a little not well-known gem, and most importantly – it works.
“This book deserves 8 stars out of 5! My first encounter with this book came when my roommate gave it to me as a Christmas present. She had read it in a creativity course and said this book changed her perception of the world and helped her be more creative.It is clearly organized and very easy to understand. Plus, it gives you the tools to apply its ideas to your problems in order to find creative solutions. Now a year later I give A Whack on the Side of the Head to my friends for Christmas!”
by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
And last but not least on our list of book on creativity for actors is something substantially more recent and great – Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration. Written by people who not only talk the talk, but also walk it, this book presents some amazing, previously ignored concepts on what it means to expand your imagination, become more creative and follow the path of truth and openness.
Ed and Amy present unique and effective methods on how to break the trap that prevents our creativity from being expressed, and how to put it into full throttle. The book is simply amazing!
“Creativity Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration is a book I see myself pondering and thinking about for some time. It is an outline guide for just maybe getting your school or district, or company for that matter, on the road to creativity. As a high school principal of a non-traditional high school, I see much of the wisdom of this book has the potential to transforms schools and school districts into places where creativity rather than conformity thrives.”
Here’s another great TED talk on creativity. For more, check out our list of 25 best TED talks for actors.