NOTE: This resources list originally appeared in the 52 Projects book, which was published in 2005. I updated the list in Oct. 2009, as links to some of the websites listed no longer worked.
Following is a list of 52 resources for inspiration. The list includes websites, books, magazines, zines, stories, albums and more. Some of the items provide how-to information, others invite you to participate. A few require you to do some digging. Some showcase artistic achievement, while others encourage you to explore and examine the creative process. Many do all of the above. There are also spaces in which you are prompted to fill in your own sources of inspiration. This list is really about providing jumping off points. A heads up: Resource #52 is your own personal, unique list of 52 resources. Better get started on that now.
1. The first journal entry from your journal that was three notebooks ago.
2. Bill Wadman’s 365 Portraits.
3. The life and art (or is it the art of the life) of the enigmatic artist Ray Johnson. See the film How To Draw a Bunny by filmmakers John Walter and Andrew Moore. Also check out Ray Johnson: Correspondences edited by Donna De Salvo and Catherine Gudis.
4. Being Antinova by Eleanor Antin.
5. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory – “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dream” – Arthur O’Shaughnessy, in his poem “Ode.”
6. A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young — A short, to-the point-book which explores a step-by-step technique for idea creation. Though written with the development of ad copy in mind, the methodology explored in the book works for any type of project.
7. Working by Studs Terkel. We spend a great many of our hours on the clock, perhaps more than we devote to anything else in our lifetimes. From the perspective of a cross section of the workplace — farmer to athlete to fireman to stock broker to waiter — this book is a wonderful examination of what working means to us: how it affects our lives and dreams, breaks us down and builds us up, and gives meaning to our day-to-day existence.
8. 52projects.com (and also, spell it out)
9. Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. The poems, yes, but also the story and the scholarship on the numerous volumes of this collection. Leaves of Grass evolved over Whitman’s entire lifetime. Learning about and reading the full spectrum of the different versions, and not just the last volume, ramps up the roof level on the already incredible experience that is the poetry of Leaves of Grass.
10. Your favorite book when you were 16 years old.
11. The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band — — Everything from the album cover to the concept of the concept album. And the music, of course.
12. John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme
13. “92 Days” in Big Bad Love by Larry Brown
14. Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation edited by Ira Berlin, Marc Favreau, and Steven F. Miller / Manzanar by John Armor and Peter Wright featuring photographs by Ansel Adams and commentary by John Hersey / Hiroshima by John Hersey
15. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
16. The Book of Zines by Chip Rowe.
17. Capturing, creating, documenting and celebrating with Ali Edwards.
18. Your favorite book.
19. Your favorite album.
20. WhatsYourProject.com — Unique, inventive and engaging project ideas contributed by people from all over the world.
21. What Should I Do With My Life? by Po Bronson — Exploration, through the stories and experiences of others, of the biggest dilemma confronting each and every one of us — what in the hell should we do with this incredible life of ours.
22. Transom — Workshops, features, resources, and tutorials on creating audio programming for radio and podcasts.
23. Why Man Creates by Saul Bass — You may have seen this short film in a classroom of long ago on a film projector reel. A truly creative exploration of creativity. Something that has always stuck with me: a scientist explains that the theory he has been doing work on for years is not working out. He seems a bit shell-shocked and despondent. In voice over as he is walking down a long hallway, and finally out a door, he explains that he doesn’t know what he’s going to do next.
24. The Journal of a Novel by John Steinbeck — Inside the mind of a writer at work on one of his important works. The journal features letters that Steinbeck wrote to his editor about his writing efforts — both the difficulties and the breakthroughs — each day before he set to work on East of Eden.
25. Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg / The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner / On Writing by Stephen King / Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction by Charles Baxter / Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott / The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice To Writers by Betsy Lerner
26. The Murdering of My Years by Mickey Z. Interviews with independent project makers exploring not only how they make their projects, but how they make ends meet as well.
27. The WPA’s Federal Writers’ Project (both the concept and the prolific body of work it created).
28. Allan Kaprow’s Happenings art.
29. Grapefruit by Yoko Ono.
30. Akira Kurosawa’s film Ikiru (see Project #26).
31. The New Media Monopoly by Ben H. Bagdikian. An investigation into media consolidation, with insights into how we are influenced and impacted by the cultural landscape it produces.
32. Fluxus Codex by Jon Hendricks / Fluxus Experience by Hannah Higgins
33. Your favorite artist’s catalogue raisonné. This will present a comprehensive look at the artist’s body of work, and will include descriptions, commentary, time lines and more.
34. Jim Munroe’s NoMediaKings.org. Munroe publishes his own books and makes his own movies. At his website, he shares what he and others have learned so that you, too, can publish your own books and make your own movies.
35. Dave Isay’s audio documentary projects, available at soundportraits.org. See also StoryCorps.net, a project created to instruct and encourage people to interview each other and record each other’s stories in sound.
36. The Special Collections Dept. at your local or university library. Rare but accessible books and curiosities that have been deemed worthy of extra care and scholarship, all in the hope of keeping the collection preserved and available for the ages.
37. The picture or drawing that has been on your fridge for years.
38. Your favorite quote. (“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one…” — George Bernard Shaw, in the “Epistle Dedicatory” to Man and Superman)
39. Joseph Cornell: Master of Dreams by Diane Waldman
40. Street art in your neighborhood. Woostercollective.com (an online showcase of street art). Subway Art by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant. Also, look for art by Swoon, Shepard Fairey, James De La Vega, and Robbie Conal in a street or alley near you.
41. The one photograph of your significant other that you believe captures him/her perfectly.
42. The artwork you made as a child, saved and safely stored (in the rafters of the garage) by your mother.
43. The wall of family photos in your home | your parent’s home | your grandparent’s home.
44. The list of people you admire (parents, siblings, high school teachers, coaches, athletes, artists, etc.)
45. The last project you made.
46. ‘Round About Midnight by Miles Davis, at midnight.
48. Old school “Composition” notebook from years ago that you haven’t looked at in years.
49. Notes scratched on a sheet of paper during a really long meeting at work.
50. The story you are never going to tell anyone, let alone put on paper.
51. 2 a.m., can’t sleep.
52. Your own personal list of 52 inspiration resources. Write it down now.