This has happened before. I wake up one morning and realise that I have unintentionally been reading different books around the same theme. Recently, I read three small yet significant books that prompt the reader to express themselves more through art.

In the spirit of a New Year, I am sharing these three books as the perfect little pep-talk that you may need to start 2019. Whether you express yourself through the mediums of painting, writing or exercise, these books will certainly inspire you to be your better self.

Art Matters (Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Chris Riddell)

Art Matters by [Gaiman, Neil]Two immensely talented forces combine here to spread a very important message. Your imagination can change the world. In just 112 pages, Neil Gaiman argues encouragingly that each of us has something significant to give to the world and that we should not repress this.

‘The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.’

The book is split into four very readable parts. I read the entire thing in a very short space of time when I could not sleep. The overall argument that we should all engage in some form of creative expression and also support others in doing so is a very convincing one. Chris Riddell’s illustrations make each page a joy to read and the whole book a refreshing experience to breeze through.

The War Of Art (Steven Pressfield)

The War of Art by [Pressfield, Steven]No, I did not get the title mixed up, this is a playful reversal of The Art Of War (another favourite of mine.) I have seen this book constantly recommended by Tim Ferriss’ interviewees so I bought in on kindle and read the three parts over three days. If you are looking for a great book to eliminate procrastination from your life this is it. Pressfield simplifies the creative process to a battle between two sides within us.

The paradox seems to be, as Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.

One side he calls the Resistance and this element of our personality constantly aims to derail our best intentions. The better half of our personality is fuelled by divine inspiration. This is the side of us that links ideas together and encourages us to spread our message to the world. Unfortunately the side that we would like to win, doesn’t always come out on top.

Pressfield’s short book offers us a chance to put the odds back in our favour. The hardest part of the creative process, he argues, is finding the time and space to just sit down and start. If you can do that often enough, you are well on your way to creating something worthwhile.

Create Dangerously (Albert Camus)

This short read from the Penguin Modern Classics selection is a lot more intense than the other two books but probably the best value. At only 53 pages and available for £1, these three speeches by the French philosopher Albert Camus will provoke thoughts in you that you may never have had before.

“A man’s obedience to his own genius is faith in its purest form…”

“So long as a man is faithful to himself, everything in his favour, government, society, the very sun, moon and stars.”

What I took from this excellent work was that art should never conform to the needs of the people. If it does, it becomes empty or just a simple parlour trick. Art should speak to the common man but in ways that were previously not imagined or thought of. Art should push the boundaries of the common experience. Think of a good book that you read lately or maybe your favourite film. Could you relate to it? Did it examine a theme for you in a new way?

This is just one small element of Albert Camus’ excellent collection of speeches. If you want something intellectual to chew on, go for this one.