Throwing yourself into a creative project can provide as much escapism as a great book—a space where it’s just you and the novel you’re writing, the meal you’re preparing, or the blanket you’re knitting. Igniting this creative fire is the first step in sparking a treasure trove of other positive feelings: happiness, motivation, self-confidence, and so much more.
For this "Get Inspired" Summer Reading Challenge prompt, we want you to join us in igniting that spark! Whether you want to develop a new skill, nurture a pre-existing one—or you're simply looking for some good old fashioned fun—check out our list of the best books on writing, painting, and drawing to start unleashing your inherent creativity.
The Urban Sketcher
The ultimate companion for any outdoor explorer, The Urban Sketcher teaches you how to draw on location—whether that’s a park, a city, or your own backyard. Artist Marc Taro Holmes covers a variety of approaches and mediums, includes advice on improving your skills, and offers plenty of daily exercises. Best of all, he helps you develop your artistic eye so that you can spot the beauty in the world just outside your door.
Drawing for the Absolute Beginner
The title says it all! For amateurs wanting to experiment with drawing, Mark and Mary Willenbrink’s book is a fantastic resource. They've stripped everything down to the basics—from proportion and composition to how to properly hold your tools. Follow their demonstrations, complete their exercises, and foster the artistic skills you've always dreamed of.
Mastering Manga with Mark Crilley
After years of fan requests, YouTube guru-slash-artist Mark Crilley has finally written a manga how-to guide. With tips on creating dynamic spreads, drawing nuanced facial expressions, and mastering body proportion, Crilley’s book gives you everything you need to fine-tune your signature manga style.
Create Perfect Paintings
Nancy Reyner’s Create Perfect Paintings goes beyond technical skill to delve into artistic and self analysis. Divided into five sections, the book reviews important concepts and terms, reveals ways to unleash your creativity, details the importance of critique, and gives you tips on overcoming blocks. No painter—novice or otherwise—should go without it!
Doodle Dogs and Sketchy Cats
Step up your doodling game with illustrated pups and kitties. Breeds, outfits, poses, faces—you name it, Boutique Shaw will show you how. Accessible to artists of all ages and levels, her easy-to-follow steps will have you drawing a menagerie of cute furry friends. The margins of your notebooks will thank you.
Your First Novel
Laura Whitcomb, Ann Rittenberg, and Camille Goldin are here to help you tick “write a novel” and “get published” off your bucket list! As a writer, literary agent, and assistant, respectively, they can answer all of your questions about the craft (How do I structure my story?) and the industry (How do I grab an agent’s attention?). Testaments from Dennis Lehane and C.J. Box offer even more perspective on the publishing process.
Damn Fine Story
Whether you're a novelist or the most talkative person at the holiday party, Damn Fine Story offers a wealth of information for storytellers wanting to improve their craft. Through personal anecdotes and pop fiction examples, the New York Times bestselling author draws an entertaining roadmap for crafting well-structured, compelling plots and multi-dimensional characters your audience will love.
Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays
The short story and the personal essay are alive and well! Refer to Windy Lynn Harris’ guide for tips on maximizing your small word count, and ensuring that magazines, journals, and publishers are knocking down your door.
Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction
Writer’s Digest has taken two classic instructional guides—including Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy—and combined them with additions from two other authors. The result is a hyper-detailed overview of the SF/F universe that offers applicable advice on building your own fictional world, creating original characters, and busting into the genre.
Comics Experience Guide to Writing Comics
While there’s no “right way” to write comics, there are certain basics you ought to know. Enter Andy Schmidt, whose book pushes you towards success as a writer and a professional in the comics world. In addition to providing insider knowledge and exercises, it contains a variety of script, outline, and pitch samples that will help you fully realize your vision.
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Featured image: Yannis Papanastasopoulos / Unsplash