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#WritersRead: Books to Inspire

August 1, 2017


Note From Rochelle


Dear Readers,

Happy August!

The summer critique group is wrapping up our work this week, and I’m starting to plan fall coaching groups. If you’d like to talk about how individual or group coaching might support you in starting or finishing a project—make an appointment for a consultation!

Last week I talked about the power of daydreaming to propel a project forward. Today’s tip talks about why people who write need to nourish their creative spirit or “fill the well”—and recommends several books to help you do just that!






Fill the Well and Books to Inspire

by Rochelle Melander


Last week, I heard author and playwright Victor Lodato read from his new book at Boswell Book Company. He spent ten years working on Edgar and Lucy, writing off and on between plays and other projects. At one point he said, “It’s great to give yourself permission to do things that take a lot of time.”

In our fast-paced society, it’s tempting to rush through everything, including writing. (Heck, I wrote the book on writing books fast!) But all of us need to pause from time to time and fill the well—even if that means it takes longer to finish our book.


Fill the Well


Julia Cameron put it like this:

“As artists we must learn to be self-nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them– to restock the trout pond, so to speak. I call this process filling the well.” 


Scientific studies have found that we can restore our physical and intellectual energy through exercise, walking in nature, sleeping, and eating healthy food. But as artists, we need to discover what nurtures our spirits. Over the years, I’ve discovered that certain activities increase my creativity: making art, interacting with nature and animals, listening to music, connecting with artists, and reading.


Your assignment: Make a list of your favorite tools for nurturing your creativity and commit to spending time each week caring for your creative spirit.


To that end, I’ve put together a list of books that I’ve found particularly nourishing this year. Enjoy!


Books to Inspire

“A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors.” —Charles Baudelaire



In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs by Grace Bonney. This book is filled with interviews of creative women—some you will know by name while others you will know because of their brand. Each profile includes a gorgeous photograph of the subject, often in her work space, an interview, and an inspiring quote.








Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. The authors teach a popular class at Stanford on Life Design, and this book presents the information and exercises for you. Based on the principles of design thinking, this book will help you move from worrying about your future to designing a life that works for you. Pro Tip: I’ve found that the author’s process works well for choosing a project as well as choosing a life!







The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert. In this picture book, children’s book author and illustrator Lois Ehlert writes about her creative process. The pages are illustrated with photographs of her studio and examples from her work, including a spread that lays out the entire plan for one of her picture books. I’d recommend this for children’s book writers and illustrators especially, but it would be inspiring for anyone who wants to create art. Favorite quote: “I created lots of art, though not for books right away. But I didn’t worry. Everyone needs time to develop their dreams. An egg in the nest doesn’t become a bird overnight.”




Creative Pep Talk: Inspiration from 50 Artists by Andy J. Miller. Full disclosure: I won this book, published by Chronicle Books, from LibraryThing. Each artist presents a short lesson in creativity along with a graphic image of their advice. Designer, illustrator and educator Steve Alexander reminds readers: Less Talk, More Action. Maker and illustrator Meg Hunt advises: “You cannot live your whole life in comfort zones.” And lettering artist Mary Kate McDevitt suggests, “Roll with it and gain momentum.” Reading a short piece of wisdom might be the perfect way to start each day.








Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield. The man behind The War of Art returns with a second volume dedicated to supporting writers, artists, and other creatives in overcoming their inner doubts and external blocks. His wisdom will help you take on the attitudes and habits of a professional artist.






Unpacking My Library: Writers and their Books by Leah Price. Imagine browsing the bookshelves of writers like Philip Pullman, Alison Bechdel and Junot Diaz. With this book, you can. The author interviews authors and provides delicious photographs of their bookshelves. Take this to the library for your next reading adventure!




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