I am the Editor in Chief at a creative agency downtown Chicago called Idea Booth. One of our rooms is called "The Library," but the truth is we have books everywhere.
Here are 5 books I can quite honestly say I pick up at least a few times a week, if for no other reason than to keep me moving effectively through each and every creative process.
1. Steal Like An Artist, by Austin Kleon
The title says it all. We would all love to think our ideas are "original," but the truth is that word is deceiving. We all steal from each other. We fall in love with someone else's idea, put our own unique twist on it and create something new. We build together. We innovate together. All creativity is inspired by someone else's creativity.
Now, don't go claiming Atlas Shrugged as your own. But take the time to study, appreciate, and then use what you've learned to evolve and create something new.
2. Damn Good Advice, by George Lois
From inside the mind of former Madison Avenue Art Director George Lois, Damn Good Advice tells it like it is. This is the type of book you pick up and read when your creative well is feeling dry, and you need a swift kick to remember why it is you love the grueling and often times frustrating job of "being creative."
What I like about George, and a pattern I notice about a lot of reflective creative minds, is that what should always drive creativity and innovation is expression. Not money. Not the chase of fame. Raw, heartfelt expression.
3. It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be, by Paul Arden
This way of thinking is one that really resonates with me. I am a firm believer in that many, many people have the ability to become just about anything they imagine for themselves--they just lack the discipline to put in the work required to get there.
Written by another advertising guru, Paul Arden, this is a quick-read handbook for the ambitious and driven. Again, because of the way it's written, you could pick it up at any time, flip to any page, and be hit with a piece of wisdom. Perfect for the office.
4. Contagious, by Jonah Berger
Reminiscent of the style in which Freakonomics is written, Contagious is all about that elusive but golden element that makes an idea, well, contagious. What makes an idea so easy to share and talk about? Of all the things to talk about at the dinner table, why do we talk about what we talk about?
Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger sets out to answer that question.
This is easily one of the most interesting books I've read in terms of why ideas "catch on." One part case study, one part story, Contagious might not be a 20 minute read, but it will certainly make you re-think some of your work--in a good way.
5. Manage Your Day-To-Day, by Jocelyn K. Glei
One of my favorite books on the subject of "productive creativity," Manage Your Day-To-Day should be on the nightstand of every Creative Director, Art Director, Copywriter and Designer.
Especially in the world of advertising (and even more so, digital advertising), the number one culprit of wasted time is the element of distraction. Every agency should have this book--if not one copy, one hundred copies with one on every table.
The takeaway lesson?
Being creative has more to do with uninterrupted focus for long periods of time than anything else--and that takes practice.