August Books for Creative Folks

August is a great month to shake off the late-summer slumber and gear back up for the awesome work you’ll be doing the rest of the year.

In my time working on Delight is in the Details I did a lot of reading. I read some new (to me) books and revisited some books I’ve read over the years in my own journey to become a better writer and designer.

Here are some books I recommend adding to your queue. Some are practical, some are inspirational, all are awesome.

The Shape of Design

By Frank Chimero.

We all believe that design’s primary job is to be useful. Our minds say that so long as the design works well, the work’s appearance does not necessarily matter. And yet, our hearts say otherwise. No matter how rational our thinking, we hear a voice whisper that beauty has an important role to play.

The Shape of Design is one of most enjoyable and inspirational books I’ve ever read on the subject of design. Frank is a genuine artist, through and through. After I finished his book I felt empowered and encouraged as a designer.

Managing Your Day to Day

By 99U (edited by Jocelyn K. Glei)

These people sabotage themselves because the alternative is to put themselves into the world as someone who knows what they are doing. They are afraid that if they do that, they will be seen as a fraud.

This book is filled with about 20 short chapters, each one written by someone else (the above quote is from Seth Godin’s chapter). The book talks a lot about time management, focus, and creativity.

The Icarus Deception

By Seth Godin

Don’t worry about your stuff. Worry about making meaning instead.

Seth has an uncanny way of encouraging creative individuals to make great art while reminding them that they are not frauds.

On Writing

By Stephen King

I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.

Much of this book is filled with stories by Stephen King about his life and childhood and how he became a writer. Just writing about it here makes me want to pick it up and read it again.

Bird by Bird

By Anne Lamott

My students assume that when well-respected writers sit down to write their books, they know pretty much what is going to happen because they’ve outlined most of the plot, and this is why their books turn out so beautifully and why their lives are so easy and joyful, their self-esteem so great, their childlike senses of trust and wonder so intact. Well. I do not know anyone fitting this description at all. Everyone I know flails around, kvetching and growing despondent, on the way to finding a plot and structure that work. You are welcome to join the club.

Another one of the best books on writing I’ve ever read. Anne’s writing is enjoyable and entertaining. Some of the best writing and design advice I’ve ever heard comes from Anne, especially her emphasis on writing a crappy first draft because the most important part of writing is to sit down and actually begin doing the work.

Writing Down the Bones

By Natalie Goldberg

(I gave away my copy of Writing Down the Bones and have not yet replaced it. So, alas, I can’t pull any highlighted passages to quote here. You’ll just have to get your own copy and read the whole thing for yourself.)

Reading Natalie’s book is a lot like sitting in on a question and answer time where people ask all the right questions and she gives all the right answers.

You don’t have to read the book front to back. The chapters are short and fast and can be read completely out of order because each one is its own nugget of advice or food for thought. And quickly, Natalie begins to feel like a trusted friend — someone who’s not afraid to shoot it straight and who has nothing to hide.

Some books tutor you on how to write better; Writing Down the Bones will help you to become a better writer.

Making Ideas Happen

By Scott Belsky

You can only stay loyal to your creative pursuits through the awareness and control of your impulses. Along the journey to making ideas happen, you must reduce the amount of energy you spend on stuff related to your insecurities.

Centered around Thomas Edison’s famous quote that Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration, Scott writes with a fondness towards the creative professional. This book is a guide for taking the constant flow of ideas we have and turning them into reality.

This is one of the few books that I have gone out and bought multiple copies of so I could give them away. I highly recommend it to anyone with a creative, entrepreneurial, or otherwise adventurous bend towards life.


If you like interviews and behind-the-scenes personal stories, then you’ll love Insites. Keir Whitaker and Elliot Jay Stocks conducted quite a few interviews with some well-known folks (such as Mandy Brown, Jim Coudal, Jeffrey Zeldman, Tim Van Damme, Jon Hicks, Jason Santa Maria, and Tina Roth Eisenberg to name a few). It’s beautifully laid out, printed in full color, and is full of, well, insights from some of the best creative professionals in the web community.

What’s in my Queue?

What’s next for me? Here are a few of the books in my queue:

P.S. If you’ve got a suggestion that should be in that list, feel free to pass it along.

August Books for Creative Folks

For the past several months I’ve been working on an audio book, eBook, and interview series concerning the making of things. And it’s almost finished.

My whole focus for this project has been to address the finest goal a person in the creative industry can have: the goal of creating substantive work that delights and excites our audience.

In the book I talk about why the long-term success of our products (and our reputations) depends heavily on us taking the time to think through and sweat the details. I share some examples of products and services I consider delightful. And I talk with some awesome folks who know all about this stuff, gleaning from their experience and success.

Delight is in the Details is on track to come out next week. Check out the site to see what the cover art looks like, peruse the table of contents, and size up the roster of interviewees.

Coming Soon: ‘Delight is in the Details’

Nearly 19-percent of the Internet is powered by WordPress. Wowzers.

Interestingly, only 4-percent of people who sign up for a hosted WordPress site (on stick with it. Curious why that is (bad user experience on WordPress’ end or lack of commitment on the user’s end). Also curious about how that 96-percent attrition rate compares to other self-hosted blogging platforms like Tumblr and Squarespace.

What I’m excited about is the fact that Automattic acquired the developers behind two of my favorite iOS apps: Simplenote and Poster (the latter being the app I use to post to this site from my iPad and iPhone). The WordPress iOS app doesn’t even come close to meeting my needs, so hopefully we’ll see some serious growth in how WordPress handles mobile for its users.

WordPress Stats: 2013

Brett Terpstra:

The core concept behind tagging on a computer is that your documents, photos and other files no longer need to have a specific location in the filesystem in order to create relationships (from the user’s perspective, anyway). Apple has long desired to move away from the idea of deeply-nested folders and an obvious filesystem (an idea that, in reality, probably began at NeXT). Spotlight, Saved Searches and other file-locating tools have been in OS X for a long time. In my opinion they’re still undervalued by most Mac users, but Apple is planning to change that.

Mavericks and Tagging

Type faster on your iPhone or iPad using short abbreviations that expand into long snippets, such as email addresses, URLs, and standard replies. Tap in your abbreviation and it automatically expands to the full snippet. You can even insert today’s date automatically with the default abbreviation “ddate”! Use Dropbox to sync your snippets to all your iOS and Mac devices!

New in 2.0: Make customized, boilerplate replies fast and easy using fill-ins. Compose messages and expand snippets in formatted text. Insert macros for date, time, date math, etc. easily when editing your snippets on iOS.

Please note that iOS does not allow TextExpander touch to work in the background (as it does in Mac OS X). But you can expand snippets directly in over 160 apps that have built-in TextExpander touch support including OmniFocus, Drafts, Things, iA Writer, DayOne, Byword, Notesy, Elements, and WriteRoom. See the complete list of supported apps.

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My thanks to TextExpander touch for sponsoring the RSS feed this week. I do a lot of writing on my iPhone and iPad, and all the apps I use support TextExpander touch. Highly recommended.

Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

Sponsor: TextExpander touch 2.0

Speaking of Seth Godin and writing:

The biggest takeaway for anyone seeking to write is this: don’t go looking for the way other authors do their work. You won’t find many who are consistent enough to copy, and there are enough variations in approach that it’s obvious that it’s not like hitting home runs or swinging a golf club. There isn’t a standard approach, there’s only what works for you (and what doesn’t). […]

The process advice that makes sense to me is to write. Constantly. At length. Often. Don’t publish everything you write, but the more you write, the more you have to choose from.

The Writing Process

Seth Godin:

If you run a media company (and you do—you publish regularly on all sorts of social media, don’t you?) then it’s worth two minutes to consider some basic groundrules, listed here for you to embrace or reject.

One of the best bits of advice for writing this site I stole from this Macworld podcast where John Gruber answers a question about why Daring Fireball is comment free:

I wanted to write a site for someone it’s meant for. That reader I write for is a second version of me. I’m writing for him. He’s interested in the exact same things I’m interested in; he reads the exact same websites I read.

Writing for the second version of me was such a great way to get momentum to my publishing routine — it helped me to find my voice, and it continues to serve as the perfect litmus test for if I should or shouldn’t link to something, or if I’m going to spend time writing a review of an app or gadget.

But writing for the second version of me doesn’t answer every question that comes up in the day-to-day of writing and publishing. Questions like: What should I do when something is interesting to me but I don’t have anything to add to the conversation about it? Or: How often should I mention that this site is primarily funded by paying members?

Some questions you have answer ahead of time and then do your best to be consistent about. Because they’re not questions of style or schedule or voice, they’re questions about principles and values.

Principles for Responsible Media Moguls