Great Books for Artists (of any kind) Pt. 1

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by Jan Seides
Wednesday 12th February, 2014, 3:29pm

Over the years, I’ve found a number of books that got me motivated, thrust me into action, or helped me resolve some of the many stumbling blocks artists are prone to.  I discovered them mostly in random fashion, or they were recommended by a friend, or mentioned in something else I was reading. Here is an aggregated list (about 5 at a time, so you’ll have time to investigate them) of all the ones I found useful, and usually entertaining. (Disclaimer: I am not financially involved in any of these. Just appreciative.)

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 12.53.22 AMFirst and foremost, the Artists Way by Julie Cameron. With weekly exercises and challenges, good advice and moments of relaxation and enjoyment while one’s artist absorbs energy.  You can do the suggestions in this book multiple times and it will help you in a different way each time.

My favorite quote from it: “OK, Universe. I’ll take care of quantity, and you take care of quality.”





Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 12.55.52 AMI have met Pat Pattison in person, and taken many songwriting workshops from him, including one online course (at  He is a professor of poetry and songwriting at Berklee School of Music in Boston. He is so knowledgeable about what goes into a good song, how to set lyrics so that they “follow the natural contour of the language”, and lots of other aspects of songwriting.

John Mayer was one of his students, so that should give you some idea of the level of quality we’re talking about here.

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 12.56.13 AMAnd he never stops exploring the ways in which a good song becomes a great song. Every time I encounter him, or one of his books, I learn something new and my songs become noticeably better.




Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 12.54.04 AMOf all the aspects of making art that prevent creativity, fear is probably the most prevalent and least understood, since we are all so good at putting a good face on it.  This book not only explains why that happens, and what it looks like, it offers suggestions on how to overcome that fear and get busy making your art. The authors are David Bayles and Ted Orland. To quote their introduction: “It is about committing your future to your own hands, placing Free Will above predestination, choice above chance”

And that’s just the introduction!




and finally (for today):

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 2.28.31 PMWhile this book is Jimmy Webb’s personal sojourn through some of his most brilliant songs, it is also practically an instruction book on songwriting. I have read it more than once, loaned it to friends (and gotten it back!!!), and thoroughly enjoyed his retelling of his circumstances, trials and triumphs. And who would know better how to write a great song?






If you would like to investigate how this played out in my own songwriting, please check out my music at and I’ll send you some examples for free!


Category: Music, Songwriting, This ‘n’ That, Uncategorized

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