Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.
I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.
Sharpening your personal saw not only gives you the skills and experience to be a better person, it will give you the kind of insights about what it means to be human that will help your writing take off too.
Brené Brown: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead
Brené Brown’s work really started gaining recognition when her TED Talk on Vulnerability went viral. She’s a researcher specializing in murky-but-important topics such as shame, courage, worthiness and vulnerability. Her central thesis of Daring Greatly is that the more we find the courage to make ourselves vulnerable, the more we allow greatness into our lives. Her ideas are profound and life-changing for any writer: as songwriters, it’s our business to open up in our exploration of what it means to be a human being. And sharing your heart and soul through your work is all about making yourself vulnerable. This important book is the perfect aid for any writer looking to create more courageous, more fulfilling and more whole-hearted work.
Kristin Neff: Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself
Like Brené Brown, Kristen Neff is the author of a popular TED Talk. The focus of her work is self-compassion — our ability to give ourselves a break — another important skill for writers to cultivate. In Self-Compassion she offers useful advice on how to develop a greater capacity to embrace who you are with and without your shortcomings, and in the process develop a greater capacity to show compassion to other people. Since understanding of what it means to be human is born of our ability to be compassionate, the ideas in this book will be useful to creative people of all kinds.
Chade-Meng Tan: Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)
Chade-Meng Tan is a Google employee who was tasked with establishing a program to raise the Emotional Intelligence of the engineers working at the firm, based on the pioneering work of Daniel Goleman in the 1990s. The result was a course with the tongue-in-cheek title Search Inside Yourself, founded on the premise that in order to change the world around us, we have to change what we’ve got inside first. Tan’s writing style is engaging, colloquial and full of good humor, and if you’re someone who usually sees talk of meditation and spirituality as new-age mumbo jumbo, you’ll be glad to know Tan’s ideas are always rooted in solid enough scientific reasoning (remember, the course was written for computer engineers) that could convince even the strongest skeptic that his ideas are worth listening to.
Stephen R. Covey: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
(Simon & Schuster, 2013)
Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits is a classic of the self-help genre, and for good reason. His ideas are simple, profound and nothing short of life altering. His habits come in a logical order: the first three about mastery over the self, the second three about mastery working with others, and the last about keeping everything in balance longer term. This is a mind-opening book that can help anyone live a more effective, successful and positive life.
Susan Cain: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
(Broadway Books, 2013)
One third of the global population are thought to be introverts: people who tend to be quiet thinkers, doers and innovators who shy away from mass attention. Among writers, this proportion is no doubt higher. In fact, for even the most outgoing writers, creating new work necessitates shutting yourself away from the world and solitarily pondering the unique challenges of your work. This important book is borne of Susan Cain’s years of research into introversion, tipping its traditional definitions on their head, sharing how quiet reflection has given us so many of the things and ideas that have changed the world, and revealing that whatever our personality type, if we want to innovate, embracing our inner introvert is a must.
Alice Miller: The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for True Self
(Basic Books, 1997)
As writers, it’s important that we become fiercely independent and hold fast to what we believe. To some degree all writers are held back by expectations — many of which can be traced to the way we interacted with parents, teachers and other authority figures when we were young — which continue to affect how they think, how they write and how they behave. Alice Miller, a psychologist specializing in childhood development, has spent years researching these relationships. Her book The Drama of the Gifted Child is a powerful tool to help writers reclaim their sense of self and unlock many of the subconscious mental blocks that prevent us from becoming who we are supposed to be.