Everyone has those days when they need a little inspiration, something to give those neurons a boost. On a good day, it might be a cup of coffee to get you going, on a bad one, who knows what will work? The following is a roundup of gifts that will hopefully help inspire creativity in their recipients.

Books

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Twyla Tharp: The Creative Habit (Simon & Schuster, $25)
When I first saw acclaimed choreographer Twyla Tharp’s Catherine Wheel performance, I was in awe of the creativity and discipline in evidence. As I watched, I tried to image all of what would go into conceiving and executing such a complex and muscular dance piece. That creative discipline, developed over a lifetime of Tharp being one of the most creative, celebrated choreographers of our time, is laid out in this impressive creativity workbook. Reading The Creative Habit makes you realize how horribly most self-help books are written. This one is a joy to read, filled as it is with great stories, eye-opening insights about the creative process, and exercises that you likely won’t be embarrassed to try. Given Tharp’s incredible resume, and her intense work-ethic, it’s not surprising that this book is extremely practical and focused on developing a discipline around your creativity. As the title makes clear, she argues that creativity, the ways and means for it to happen, anyway, can be practiced and become habitual. Even if a high degree of order in your creative chaos is not your style (it certainly isn’t mine), there are all sorts of great lessons and exercises to take away from this book. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone reading it and not getting smarter in how they approach their creative process. — Gareth Branwyn

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What It Is By Lynda Barry (Drawn And Quarterly, $24.95)
I can’t think of a better example of a real-life Blakean character, someone who’s cultivated a similar self-modeled creative universe and who sees things from many and unique angles, than contemporary comic artist and memoirist Lynda Barry. This is profoundly evident in her new book, What It Is. This densely collaged work is utterly uncategorizable – so many modes of expression at the same time: a textbook/workbook on inspiring creative writing and cultivating creativity of all kinds, a memoir-comic of Barry’s personal struggles with creativity and self-expression as a child, a stunning and challenging piece of collage art, and a sort of extended fever dream on the nature of memory, imagination, play, and creativity. And like William Blake, Barry’s message is also about waking up to yourself. It’s an extended pep talk on finding the inspiration between your ears and using your senses and memories of life experiences to express yourself in ways that can truly enrich your life. It’s hard not to open up this book, poke your head into its dream-like sea of memory-ticklers, imaginative ideas, creative inspiration, and surreal imagery, and not want to put it down to go make something on your own. As if to drive home the beastly, manifold nature of feral creativity, Barry introduces the Magic Cephalopod (aka squid), a sort of creature from your Id who swims through the murky depths of the text, its many appendages constantly in creative motion, gently guiding you to swim off to some grand adventure inside the Mariana Trench of your own creativity. This is Blakean art, and Blakean inspiration, for the 21st century. — Gareth Branwyn [This review first appeared as a sidebar to Gareth’s “William Blake: Patron Saint of Makers” piece in MAKE, Volume 17]

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The War of Art By Steven Pressfield (Warner Books, $12.95)
Is it perhaps fitting that well-known military fiction author Steven Pressfield (Gates of Fire, Tides of War, Killing Rommel) would couch the creative struggle in military terms. In this slim volume, he writes candidly about his own life-long struggle with the many obstacles that get in the way of us realizing our dreams. Throughout the book, Pressfield describes the main destructive force that opposes our creativity as resistance. He presents it almost as an actual conscious entity that is hell-bent on standing in the way of us accomplishing our goals. And the more we want those goals, the higher the value of the resistance that presents itself. The book is basically a series of locker-room pep talks about going out there and kicking resistance’s ass. The book is somewhat new agey around the edges and that might be off-putting to some, but I’ve found it really helpful. I take it down from the shelf periodically and open it at random to read one of its short, self-contained thought-nuggets. Such as: “The counterfeit innovator is wildly confident. The real one is scared to death.” It’s Sun Tzu meets Oprah! — Gareth Branwyn

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Makers: All Kinds of People Making Amazing Things In Garages, Basements, and Backyards by Bob Parks (O’Reilly Media, $18)
Sometimes, checking out other people’s amazing work is inspiration enough to get you going. Makers is a beautiful hardbound book celebrating DIY inspiration and the people behind the projects. The book introduces you to a brigade of citizen engineers making their own cameras, clocks, airplanes, submarines, musical instruments, weapons, medical equipment, energy-saving devices, robots, and houses. They create their own tools to explore the outer atmosphere, the deep sea, and the behavior of tiny flies in their backyard.

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Welcome to MAKE Bundle (Maker Shed, $48.00)
If you (or your recipient) are new to MAKE, the Welcome to MAKE Bundle might be a good choice to inspire creativity. Along with a year subscription to the magazine, you get The Best of MAKE collection, which features DIY projects from the magazine’s first ten volumes. Also included in the bundle is our popular Maker’s Notebook. It’s a great way to inspire your hands-on creativity.

Fun Stuff

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Trippy Glasses (Maker Shed, $39.95)
If nothing else inspires creativity, maybe it’s time to bring in the heavy artillery. The Trip Glasses are a great way to get your brain on a creative track. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the hallucinations light show as you drift into deep meditation. You can also make you own with the Brain Machine kit.

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Bucky Balls (Amazon, $30.91)
Bucky Balls are on my wish list this year, and they should be on yours too! The set includes 216 powerful rare earth magnets that can be connected or molded into unlimited shapes. Think of it as modern-day stress putty.


Roger von Oech’s Ball of Whacks (Creative Whack, $23.10)
This is an interesting ‘toy’ that includes 30 magnetic pyramids that can be rearranged in countless ways. The building system is based on the rhombic triacontahedron, and allows you to build some fairly complex structures. Neat! While you’re at it, check out the X-Ball too.

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Family Vacation at Maker Faire (Roadtrip $Varies depending on travel expenses)
Nothing, and I mean nothing, will get the creative juices flowing like a weekend at Maker Faire. If you’ve been to one, then you know what I mean. If you haven’t then you must give it a try. You will have a great time, guaranteed!

LEARN TO MAKE, CRAFT, DESIGN OR DEVELOP:
• Robots • Rockets • Bicycles • Alternative Energy Devices • Electronics • Crafts
• Circuit Boards • Sustainable Food • Musical Instruments • Wood Working
• Knitting • Eco Modding Cars • Kites • Special Effects • Sewing • and more…

Maker Faire is a two-day, family-friendly event that celebrates the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset. It’s for creative, resourceful people of all ages and backgrounds who like to tinker and make things. So much to see, you will need two days to see it all!

You could always purchase some Maker Faire “stuff” and wrap it with an IOU!

In the Maker Shed:
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Want more? Stop by the Maker Shed. We’ve got all sorts of great holiday gift ideas, Arduino & Arduino accessories, electronic kits, science kits, smart stuff for kids, back issues of MAKE & CRAFT, box sets, books, robots, kits from Japan and more.

Holiday Shipping Deadlines in December:

04 (Fri) – Deadline for microscope shipping
11 (Fri) – postal shipping deadline
14 (Mon) – ground shipping deadline
18 (Fri) – FedEx 3-day shipping deadline
21 (Mon) – FedEx 2-day shipping deadline
22 (Tue) – FedEx overnight shipping deadline

*Customers experiences on orders with these ship methods placed after these dates may vary, the dates listed are what we call “safe dates”

USPS (Any Method):
Due to the high volume of mail that the postal service deals with around the holidays, order by Dec. 10th, however, many packages are lost or delayed in transit and we do not replace or refund any orders lost using this ship method, we strongly encourage you to not use this method in December.