These are tools I’ve personally tested and recommend for improving your writing, living a more creative life, and building an online business.
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 writing. Thank you!
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. 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.
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.
I’d been following Brian McDonald’s Invisible Ink Blog for years when I heard that he was collecting his best posts into a book. I had to get it! Brian’s essays have taught me so much about the craft of writing and story structure, but also about great movies and what makes them great. Whenever I need a pep talk, I read one of Brian’s stories, and then I’m revving to get back to it.
The INFJ Writer helped me understand why and how I write the way I do. The examples hit so close to home that it felt like Lauren was spying on me. She lays out the challenges and advantages of being a sensitive, intuitive writer in such an engaging and encouraging way. I am ENFJ not INFJ, but I highly recommend this book to all writers with a NF Myers-Briggs type.
I took Jess’s workshop at a Mystery Writers of America One-Day University, and found it to be very helpful. Her Pyramid Approach helps you take an idea and turn it into a finished manuscript using seven steps. “Only seven?” you might be thinking. Yes, only seven, but they’re just as challenging, if not more challenging, than writing the actual novel.
TOOLS FOR LIVING A MORE CREATIVE LIFE
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 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 (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.
I read Show Your Work! in 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.
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 one magical set of habits that will work for everyone. It helped me discover and cultivate habits that will work for my personality, preferences, and quirks.
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 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 for creating a better, healthier life. Great resource for everyone.
Don’t let the title fool you. Even if you already know you want to be some kind of creator, this book can help you. Because even if you know what you want, it can still be hard to figure out how to get it. Barbara Sher is the wisest career counselor I’ve ever read. Her book is full of sage, insightful, compassionate, and funny stories. Highly recommended for both people who know what they want to do, and people who don’t.
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. Second, this book is hilarious. How many personal finance books can claim that? I recommend this book to everyone, but especially to creatives who say they are “bad” with money.
TOOLS FOR BUILDING AN ONLINE BUSINESS
As a creator, the most important thing you can build is your email list of fans and supporters. When I first started this site, I had less than 10 subscribers to my email newsletter so I used MailChimp to send them out because it was free. But using MailChimp never felt right–the site was busy, complicated, and not intuitive. Three years later, after one of my friends subscribed to ConvertKit, I signed up for their free trial and within days, I switched too. Sending newsletters became a breeze instead of a chore. It was easy to organize my subscribers. I even used ConvertKit to create my 8-day drip email course on Fear & Writing. Whenever I got stuck, the support staff always helped me out (shout-out to Matt Ragland!). I now recommend ConvertKit to every entrepreneurial creator I meet.
I wanted to create a web site that was clean, clear, easy to navigate, and easy to update. Because I blog regularly, I decided to use a WordPress site. I chose StudioPress’s Workstation theme and their framework called Genesis. It’s one of the best WordPress themes I’ve used. StudioPress has a great selection, so check them out if you decide a WordPress site is right for you. 2018 Update: StudioPress is now owned by WP Engine, so if you host your site with them, you’ll get all StudioPress themes for free. Or you can just purchase the theme you want if you’re already using a different host.
When I set up my site, I worried about losing content through a technical snafu, hackers, and/or server breakdowns. So, I bought the Backup Buddy plugin, installed it, and set it to automatically back up my site database weekly, with a full backup once a month. Set it and forget it! Backup Buddy gives me so much peace of mind.
Hope you find these resources helpful. If you have questions about any of them, contact me. Happy to talk shop with you.