Here’s a curated list of tools that I’ve tested and highly recommend for improving your writing, leading a creative life, and building an online business. Please note that some of these resources contain affiliate links, and if you make a purchase via one of these links, I’ll be paid a commission at no cost to you, and you’ll be helping me devote more time to blogging and writing books. Thank you!
Psst..if you’re looking for my book, The Contenders, you can find it here.
TOOLS FOR IMPROVING YOUR WRITING
Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories that Resonate by Brian McDonald
If I could only recommend one book on writing, Invisible Ink by Brian McDonald would be it. In fact, I reread Invisible Ink every year. It’s through Brian’s teachings that I’ve learned the simple, but not easy, techniques for writing a good and memorable story. Whether you’re writing a screenplay, a short story, or a novel, get your hands on Invisible Ink. Read it, absorb it, and become the writer you were meant to be.
The Golden Theme: How to Make Your Writing Appeal to the Highest Common Denominator by Brian McDonald
If I could only recommend two books on writing, I’d recommend Invisible Ink and The Golden Theme by Brian McDonald. Together, these books are what I call “The Holy Grail of Writing Books.” While Invisible Ink will teach you the core elements of story, The Golden Theme will teach you what makes storytelling essential to us as human beings. It is an enlightening, eye-opening book and I reread it all the time.
Ink Spots: Collected Writings on Story Structure, Filmmaking and Craftsmanship by Brian McDonald
I’ve been following Brian McDonald’s Invisible Ink Blog for years. When I heard that he was going to collect his best posts into a book, I knew I had to get it. Brian’s essays have taught me so much about the craft of writing, storytelling, and story structure, but also about great movies and what makes them great. Whenever I need inspiration, a break, or a pep talk, I read one of Brian’s stories in Ink Spots.
The INFJ Writer: Cracking the Creative Genius of the World’s Rarest Type by Lauren Sapala
The INFJ Writer changed my perspective on how I write and why I write. It felt like Lauren was spying on me, it felt so close to home. She lays out the challenges and advantages of being a sensitive, intuitive writer in an engaging, funny, and encouraging way. I am ENFJ not INFJ, but found a lot I could relate to in this book. Highly recommended for all writers that have a NF Myers-Briggs type.
The Pyramid Approach to Novel Writing by Jess Lourey
I took Jess’s workshop at a Mystery Writers of America MWA One-Day University, and found it to be super helpful. Her “Pyramid Approach” helps you to take an idea and turn it into a finished manuscript using seven steps. “Only seven?” you might be thinking. Yes, there’s only seven, but they’re not easy. I find them as challenging, if not more challenging, than writing the manuscript. Along with rereading McDonald’s Invisible Ink, I turn to Jess’s Pyramid Approach every time I start writing a novel.
TOOLS FOR LEADING A CREATIVE LIFE
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
If you’re a writer, artist, or anyone who wants more creativity in your life, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear is for you. After reading this book, I felt inspired, motivated, and ready to get back to writing. Liz’s stories gave me the compassionate push I needed to move forward with my scary, yet exhilarating, creative goals. I like to reread this book every time I need a creativity and courage boost.
Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland
This is a short book (just 122 pages) but one that took me a while to read and digest. David and Ted, both working artists, understand how hard it is to make art on a consistent basis. They understand the fear that is almost always there during the creative process. Reading this book made me feel more understood and less alone.
Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon
I read Show Your Work! in just one sitting, but the lessons I learned from it have come back to me for days, weeks, and years. Austin’s book helped me realize that I needed to stop thinking my writing needed to be great before I showed it to anyone. I learned through his examples and stories how to show my work on a regular basis, and how doing that would help me build an audience over time.
Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits by Gretchen Rubin
As someone that’s always looking for the “right” set of habits that will make me a more productive, creative, and happier person, reading Better Than Before was crucial to my development and growth. This book helped me realize there’s not some magical set of habits that will work for everyone. It helped me discover and cultivate habits that work for my personality, preferences, and quirks.
From Coping to Thriving: How to Turn Self-Care Into a Way of Life by Hannah Braime
From Coping to Thriving opened my eyes to the real meaning of “self-care.” As the book details, “self-care is health care.” It took me 20 years of working full time to finally realize that I needed to take better care of myself, and that self-care was not a luxury, but a necessity. When I found this book in my 40s, it was like finding the last puzzle piece that I needed. Great resource for all creatives.
I Will Teach You to be Rich by Remit Sethi
I’ve read a lot of personal finance books over the years so when I Will Teach You to be Rich became a bestseller, I thought, what more could it teach me? Well, it taught me a lot. For one, Remit’s system of making everything automatic has saved me so much time and energy. I now recommend this book to everyone, but I especially recommend it to creatives who confess they are “bad” with money.
TOOLS FOR BUILDING AN ONLINE BUSINESS
I used the Fernando WordPress theme to create this site, but in order for it to work, it needed to be installed with a framework called Genesis. It cost me just $60 and my site has been working great. Click on the link to learn more about the Genesis framework and see the many Genesis-powered themes by StudioPress that you might want to use for your own site.
When I first set up my site, I worried about losing content through a technical snafu, hackers, and/or web server breakdowns. So, I bought the Backup Buddy plugin, installed it, and set it to automatically back up my website database daily, with a full backup once a month. I get all this, and peace of mind, for only $60 per year. Worth every penny.
I hope you find these resources helpful. If you have questions about any of them, contact me.
If you’re looking for my book, The Contenders, first, THANK YOU, and second, go HERE.