Eight Books to Read If You’re in a Creative Slump

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Photo by Julia Joppien on Unsplash

Struggling with a creative block can feel like being stuck in quicksand—every effort to escape seems to pull you deeper into frustration. You stare at the blank page or screen, willing for an idea to spark, but nothing clicks. Before you resign yourself to despair, let these seven remarkable books be your lifeline. Each one offers a unique perspective on overcoming creative hurdles, from grappling with perfectionism to finding inspiration in unexpected places. Dive into these stories of struggle and triumph, and rediscover the magic of creativity in the most unexpected ways.

The Luminous Novel by Mario Levrero

Levrero’s diary kept during his Guggenheim fellowship, chronicles his struggle to write a novel. It captures the essence of a creative block with dry humor and honesty. His distractions and failures reveal that creative work often involves attempting the impossible and finding meaning, even in failure.

Sale
The Luminous Novel
  • Levrero, Mario (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 431 Pages – 08/03/2021 (Publication Date) – And Other Stories (Publisher)

Scratched by Elizabeth Tallent

Tallent’s memoir explores her 20-year struggle with perfectionism after early literary success. Through her dense, introspective prose, she examines how perfectionism stifles creativity, ultimately learning to embrace imperfection and reality over-idealized art.

Sale
Scratched: A Memoir of Perfectionism
  • Hardcover Book
  • Tallent, Elizabeth (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages – 02/25/2020 (Publication Date) – Harper (Publisher)

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

Chabon’s novel follows Grady Tripp, a writing professor stuck in a never-ending manuscript. Amidst personal chaos, Tripp’s creative struggle highlights how we create our own obstacles. The book offers solace and humor for anyone feeling creatively isolated.

Sale
Wonder Boys: A Novel
  • Chabon, Michael (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 368 Pages – 04/29/2008 (Publication Date) – Random House Trade Paperbacks (Publisher)

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

Johnson’s book shifts focus from individual creativity to environments that foster innovation. Exploring how ideas develop through serendipity and collaboration encourages cultivating variety and openness in one’s creative process.

Sale
Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
  • Johnson, Steven (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 344 Pages – 10/04/2011 (Publication Date) – Riverhead Books (Publisher)

So Many Olympic Exertions by Anelise Chen

Chen’s novel blends fiction and nonfiction. It follows Athena’s struggle with her dissertation amidst personal tragedy. The book critiques society’s obsession with achievement through sports metaphors and offers a reevaluation for those stuck in their projects.

Sale
So Many Olympic Exertions
  • Chen, Anelise (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 232 Pages – 06/27/2017 (Publication Date) – Kaya Press (Publisher)

What It Is by Lynda Barry

Barry’s unique work combines a graphic memoir, a meditation on creativity, and an activity book. Her collages and exercises emphasize play and relinquishing control to revive creativity, arguing that embracing the unknown can overcome creative blocks.

Sale
What It Is
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Barry, Lynda (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 209 Pages – 05/13/2008 (Publication Date) – Drawn and Quarterly (Publisher)

Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer

Dyer’s account of his failed attempt to write about D.H. Lawrence is filled with humorous distractions. His book demonstrates that the obligations of creative work are not as rigid as they seem, offering a liberating perspective on tackling creative blocks.

Sale
Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence
  • Dyer, Geoff (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages – 11/10/2009 (Publication Date) – Picador (Publisher)

The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. 1

This collection features interviews with great writers discussing their creative processes and struggles. The practical advice and diverse voices provide reassurance and inspiration, emphasizing that there are many ways to create art and encouraging readers to be true to themselves.

Sale
The Paris Review Interviews, I: 16 Celebrated Interviews (The Paris Review Interviews, 1)
  • The Paris Review (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 528 Pages – 10/17/2006 (Publication Date) – Picador (Publisher)


The Eclectic Educator is a free resource for all who are passionate about education and creativity. If you enjoy the content and want to support the newsletter, consider becoming a paid subscriber. Your support helps keep the insights and inspiration coming!

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

"Sunrise" An epic view of Torres del Paine. In the early morning, when conditions are just right, the first sunlight beautifully highlights parts of the mountains.
“Sunrise” An epic view of Torres del Paine. In the early morning, when conditions are just right, the first sunlight beautifully highlights parts of the mountains.

Greetings Starfighters,

Yesterday, I had the chance to present at the Murray State University Summit and show off some of the amazing work our students completed this past semester. You can find my slide deck and the resources I shared with those fine folks right here.

And now, on with the show!

Quote of the Day

"The ability to dream is all I have to give. That is my responsibility; that is my burden. And even I grow tired." (Harlan Ellison, Stalking the Nightmare)

“The ability to dream is all I have to give. That is my responsibility; that is my burden. And even I grow tired.” (Harlan Ellison, Stalking the Nightmare)

Musical Interlude

The world is a little brighter in the past few weeks, as Common has blessed us with some new music and an upcoming album release in July. Here’s his latest collaboration with Pete Rock:

Long Read of the Day

Engineers carefully lowered the Cyclops 2 model into the testing tank nose-first, like a bomb being loaded into a silo, and then screwed on the tank’s 3,600-pound lid. Then they began pumping in water, increasing the pressure to mimic a submersible’s dive. If you’re hanging out at sea level, the weight of the atmosphere above you exerts 14.7 pounds per square inch (psi). The deeper you go, the stronger that pressure; at the Titanic’s depth, the pressure is about 6,500 psi. Soon, the pressure gauge on UW’s test tank read 1,000 psi, and it kept ticking up—2,000 psi, 5,000 psi. At about the 73-minute mark, as the pressure in the tank reached 6,500 psi, there was a sudden roar, and the tank shuddered violently.

“I felt it in my body,” an OceanGate employee wrote in an email later that night. “The building rocked, and my ears rang for a long time.”

“Scared the shit out of everyone,” he added.

The model had imploded thousands of meters short of the safety margin OceanGate had designed for.

This conversation took place in July 2016, long before the Oceangate Titan imploded on its way down to the wreckage of the Titanic. This tragedy can be traced to a series of lies, personal hubris, and cheating. While creativity and dreams were certainly involved in this work, there’s something to be said about working with and trusting experts when universal laws are at play.

Read more about the backstory of the Titan here.

Video of the Day

Ludwig Göransson’s work on the Oppenheimer score, especially “Can You Hear the Music?” offers great insights for teachers as designers of learning experiences. His process with Christopher Nolan shows the value of collaboration and giving space for creativity. Starting with a simple four-note baseline that evolved into something complex reminds us that big ideas often start small. Experimentation and iteration were key, reflecting the importance of trial and error in the classroom.

Göransson’s focus on the emotional core of Oppenheimer’s journey underscores the power of integrating emotional and narrative elements into lessons. His blending of mathematical elements with music demonstrates the benefits of interdisciplinary approaches. The innovative solutions to recording challenges highlight the need for adaptability and problem-solving. Finally, his emphasis on impactful elements over complexity reminds us to prioritize clarity in lesson design. Teachers can create engaging and effective learning experiences that resonate deeply with students by seeing themselves as designers.

Final Thoughts

I’m watching the 1948 film version of Hamlet and am fascinated by the practical effects. What were they doing in 1948 to make a ghost on film? Does anybody know or can direct me to some reading?

It still amazes me that I can be blown away by work done over 70 years ago.



The Eclectic Educator is a free resource for all who are passionate about education and creativity. If you enjoy the content and want to support the newsletter, consider becoming a paid subscriber. Your support helps keep the insights and inspiration coming!