Are you an improviser who has had your fill of zip-up hoodies and pairs of skinny jeans? If so, this year, we recommend that you ask Santa to bring you some books.
These three non-improv books are must-haves for any improviser who wants to boost your creativity and improve your craft. And if Santa doesn’t bring them, why not buy them for yourself?
1. Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
by Austin Kleon (2012)
Boy, do I see this in my improv classes all the time: Students who are blocking their creativity because they want to come up with an original idea. The premise of this book is that everything has been done before, and that all sorts of artists from Pablo Picaso to David Bowie have stolen from other artists. How great is that? For me, learning that, and the nine practical things that follow, was inspiring. The real power of the book is in its simplicity. It takes the shame out of the notion that’s wrong to steal from other artists and gives you permission to do so. Plus, it’s a quick read, it has pictures, and it’s only $10.95.
2. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
by Steven Pressfield (2012)
Getting good at improv takes work. Lots and lots of work. For those who make it big, talent is only a small percentage of the equation. Pressfield is an author and screenwriter whose book is about how to take action steps to work on your art. It is not touchy feely; it’s direct, and pushes you right into the deep end of the swimming pool. Pressfield acknowledges that as artists, we struggle with resistance and fear, and even though he takes a tough love approach to these issues, he gets you to see the positive side of these so called negative emotions. This book can feel at times like a kick in the nuts, but he does a great job of taking the magic of creativity and making it practical. It takes work to break through our blocks and the obstacles in our head, but he gives you a plan of attack for working on your art, and in that I found a lot of hope. Warning: This book may light a fire under your ass or make you so angry that you may want to re-gift it.
3. The Tools: 5 Tools to Help You Find Your Courage, Creativity, and Willpower — and Inspire You to Live Life in Forward Motion
by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels (2013)
When improvisers get blocked, sometimes it has nothing to do what’s happening on stage. They may be dealing with deeper psychological issues that they aren’t even aware of. I know improvisers don’t want to hear this, but it’s been true in my life. This book is written by Los Angeles therapists Phil Stutz and Barry Michels who are started helping show business types how to get unblocked so they could have a successful Hollywood career. The authors share their Five Step Method, along with stories from some of their clients. I found this book not only fascinating, but also really helpful, especially if you are one of those improvisers who can’t afford therapy.