The Top 20 Best Books for Creatives in the Film Industry

The Top 20 Best Books for Creatives in the Film Industry
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This post contains the best books for film industry creatives.  I put together this list of the best books for creatives in our industry because sometimes our creative work could use a boost.  

It can be challenging to build a daily creative habit that inspires us to think in new ways.

The creative process can be challenging in the best of times.  These books all have practical tips to boost your creative confidence and help you bring your creative ideas to life.  

(This post may contain affiliate links from Amazon and other vendors. That means if you buy something through one of the links, I make a small commission at no additional cost to you. It helps cover the cost of running this blog.)

So here are my picks for the twenty best books for creatives in the film industry:

1. Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins

Bestselling author Jeff Goins dispels the myth of the starving artist in this book for creatives.  He offers practical advice for succeeding as a creative, such as stealing from your influences rather than waiting for inspiration and collaborating with others instead of working alone.

Goins offers some inspiring anecdotes of successful creatives and reminds us that business and art are not mutually exclusive pursuits.  Real Artists Don’t Starve celebrates the process of becoming an artist who utilizes the imagination in fundamental ways, something every creative person can use to their advantage.

2. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art is a practical guide for conquering the roadblocks that keep us from pursuing our creative endeavors.  The author highlights the self-generated resistance we often feel when we pursue actions that derive from our higher nature, such as creative endeavors, rather than our lower nature.

Pressfield offers a battle plan for conquering the naysayer within us and shows how to reach the highest level of creative discipline.  It’s the tough love kick in the pants many of us need to move forward on our creative journey.

3. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Psychologist and author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explores the state of consciousness called ‘flow’ where we experience creativity, deep enjoyment, and total involvement in what we’re doing.  

In Flow, he demonstrates how this desirable flow state can be controlled by ordering the information that enters our consciousness, and not just left to chance.  

Understanding and controlling the flow state can be a valuable tool for anyone wanting to reach their full creative potential.

4. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

This bestselling book by Austin Kleon presents ten transformational principles to help you build a more creative life.  Nothing is original, says Kleon, so we should learn from the work of others and reimagine and remix to develop our own creative path.  Steal Like an Artist is a guide to put readers in touch with their creative side.

This popular book is a good place to start if you’re looking for a new way to build a more creative life.

5. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This instant bestseller by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, offers the author’s wisdom and unique perspective on creativity.  In Big Magic, she writes about the attitudes, approaches, and habits that will help readers live their most creative lives, no matter what their creative field.

Gilbert also encourages us to face down the fears we often encounter when exploring our creative talents and find new ways to address the challenges in our work.

6. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

There’s a reason The Artist’s Way has been on my bookshelf for over twenty-five years and it was often seen on set when it first came out.  Julia Cameron’s inspiring book has guided millions of readers on their own creative journeys and deserves a spot on every best books for creatives list.  

This book has plenty of exercises and activities designed to explore your creativity and remove a creative block.  The Morning Pages, three pages of stream-of-consciousness daily writing, are designed to nurture your creative self and they provide the guiding principle of The Artist’s Way.

It’s a book that requires your active participation and is sure to inspire some new ideas for your own creativity.

7. On Writing by Stephen King

If anyone knows about the craft of writing and the creative process, it’s Stephen King.  He’s one of the best-selling authors of all time and in this book, he shares the experiences, habits, and convictions that have influenced his work.

On Writing is a great book for any aspiring writer, with a mix of personal stories and a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft.

Many of King’s books have been made into movies, and fans of his work will find much inspiration in On Writing.

8. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

The Creative Habit by legendary creative artist and choreographer Twyla Tharp offers thirty-two practical exercises to form the basis of a creative practice in your own life.

In “Where’s Your Pencil” Tharp reminds readers to observe the world and write things down on paper.  The “Do a Verb” exercise turns your mind and body into co-workers.

Tharp leads readers through the process of finding ideas, finding the spine of their work, and getting out of ruts.  

The Creative Habit is an essential guide for anyone who wants to expand their creativity.

9. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

Ed Catmull was a co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and in this book, he shares the leadership and management philosophies that encourage creative thinking and defy convention.

In Creativity, Inc. Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques that have made Pixar so popular and so profitable.  The unique environment that Catmull and his colleagues created at Pixar was what allowed the success of movies like Toy Story, which changed animation forever.

10. The Creative Mindset by Jeff Degraff and Staney Degraff

Many of today’s major innovation workshops and programs call on organizations to drive creativity.  The authors of The Creative Mindset bring advice, tools, and techniques for nurturing the creativity of individuals in organizations.  

The six creative thinking skills in the book can be remembered as the acronym CREATE: Concentrate, Replicate, Elaborate, Associate, Translate, and Evaluate.

The authors believe that individual creativity is a vast untapped resource for innovation, and the creative thinking skills they put forth in The Creative Mindset may be the best way to tap it.

11. The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry

The Accidental Creative teaches effective practices to support the creative process so you can do your best work.  In today’s workplace, we’re expected to generate good ideas on demand.

Todd Henry offers a guide to establishing practices around the creative process rather than waiting for inspiration to happen.  The book is designed to help readers thrive in today’s create-on-demand world and work strategically, not desperately.

The Accidental Creative is a guide for staying fresh and mentally focused so you can do your best work every day.  Anyone who works in the film industry can certainly use that.

12. Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch

David Lynch shares insights into the creative process for his own work in Catching the Big Fish.  Lynch compares ideas to fish and says the best ones are found down deep.   The more your consciousness and awareness are expanded, the deeper down you can go.

Lynch’s own creative process is deeply interwoven with his decades-long practice of Transcendental Meditation.  The tenth-anniversary issue of the book has added interviews with fellow Transcendental Meditation practitioners Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

Anyone who wants insight into Lynch’s unique creative vision and needs inspiration for their own creative endeavors will find this book enlightening.

13. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work gives us insight into the daily rituals of many of the world’s greatest artists, past and present.  The daily rituals of both modern and historical novelists, painters, philosophers, poets, playwrights, scientists, and mathematicians are all included in this book, and you may be surprised at some of the rituals they practiced to complete their work.

The array of artists whose rituals are presented in the book includes Charles Darwin, Andy Warhol, Twyla Tharp, Picasso, Agatha Christie, and Benjamin Franklin, among many others.  

You may find inspiration in this entertaining book to develop your own unique rituals for your creative work.

14. Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley

According to the authors, many people believe creativity and innovation are the domain of “creative types.”  Creative Confidence dispels the myth that only some people are creative and claims creative energy is one of our most precious resources.  When it’s blocked, we can unblock it.  We’re all creative people.

The authors believe that everybody is the “creative type” and they present an approach for us to tap into the creativity we already have.   We all have the ability to tap our creative potential and strengthen our creative confidence so we can reach our full potential, no matter what our profession.

15. Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

Written by the same author as Steal Like an Artist, this book is about being findable and putting your work out there in the world.  Instead of hoarding your work, Kleon believes the key to success is sharing your work and being open about what you’re working on.

“By generously sharing their ideas and their knowledge, they often gain an audience they can leverage when they need it…” he writes.

Show Your Work! offers an alternative to self-promotion, as sharing your work and your process can attract others who may be interested in what you do.

In this digital age of social media, everyone has the ability to contribute to an online community where work is shared, networks are built, and creativity thrives.  

16. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

In this best-selling book, psychologist and author Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, explains the two systems of the mind that influence the way we think.

System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional while System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical.  Kahneman shows us how we can benefit from slow thinking, both in our business and personal lives.  He offers different techniques for guarding against the ‘mental glitches’ that can negatively impact our lives.

Anyone wanting a deeper understanding of how our minds work will find Thinking Fast and Slow enlightening.

17. The Little Spark by Carrie Bloomston

The author writes “Your creativity is like a pilot light – it’s always on, even if you aren’t using the stove.”   

In The Little Spark, Bloomston offers exercises, activities, and motivating ideas to get readers in touch with their creativity.  

The book offers tips for getting started on your creative journey, from organizing your materials and workspace to taking quick, achievable first steps to lessen the intimidation of getting started.  

Your own creative spark is waiting for you.

18. How to Get Ideas by Jack Foster

In the first section of How to Get Ideas, Foster teaches us how to condition our minds.  Have fun, be more like a child, visualize success, and learn how to combine are some steps included in these chapters.

The second section of the book contains the five-step process for producing ideas.  The illustrations make this book a fun read that’s sure to spark a few ideas in everyone who reads it.

19. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

The title of this best-seller may not sound like it, but Save the Cat is a book on screenwriting.  Snyder’s book is an insider’s take on the movie business and a guide to making a script more satisfying and marketable.  He knows what it takes to succeed as a screenwriter in Hollywood, and in this book he shares his wisdom on what makes an outstanding script.

Snyder is an excellent writer, and he shares plenty of insights in this entertaining book.  He’s worked with many top people in the industry and he knows how the business of screenwriting works.  

Save the Cat is a must-read book for any aspiring screenwriter. 

20. Conversations with Wilder by Cameron Crowe

Writer-director Cameron Crowe talks to Billy Wilder about Wilder’s incredible writing-directing career during the height of old Hollywood in this one-of-a-kind book.  Wilder directed many iconic films and worked with the top stars of his day, including Barbara Stanwyck, Gary Cooper, Greta Garbo, William Holden, and Marilyn Monroe.  

The late Wilder was age 93 at the time Crowe interviewed him and he shares stories about his directing technique, his peers, and his legendary career in Hollywood in this book.

Conversations with Wilder also contains hundreds of black-and-white photos and anyone wanting to learn more about Wilder and the Hollywood of his era will find this book worth reading.


That’s my roundup of the best books for creatives in the film industry.  We work in a creative business, and everyone can find their own favorite books here to try new things to expand their creativity.  

Hopefully, a few of the books on this list can help guide you on your own journey of creative living.  After all, we can never have too much creative energy in our own work.

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