Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Zen Pencils: Creative Struggle” as Want to Read:
Zen Pencils: Creative Struggle
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Zen Pencils: Creative Struggle

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  287 ratings  ·  79 reviews
Gavin Aung Than, creator of the innovative Zen Pencils, shares his passion for creativity and reveals how you, too, can live a creative life.

Zen Pencils: Living a Creative Life is a call to wake up the creative spirit inside you. Through Zen Pencils cartoon quotes on creativity from inspirational artists, musicians, writers, and scientists, you'll discover what inspired ea
...more
Paperback, 148 pages
Published January 16th 2018 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Zen Pencils, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Zen Pencils

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.33  · 
Rating details
 ·  287 ratings  ·  79 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Zen Pencils: Creative Struggle
[Shai] Bibliophage
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
This is the second book I've read from Gavin Aung Than. His books are not only entertaining to read but are also very inspirational. The illustrations that were drawn by the author, as well as the quotes and stories of some of the famous people that he compiled in this book will make an impact on those who read it.
Zen Pencils: Creative Struggle
Through this book/graphic novel, we are reminded that even the popular personalities are ordinary people also because they have encountered problems in achieving their goals. Thes
...more
Apoorva
‘Creative Struggles’ is a perfect book to read when you’re in a slump or you’re too demotivated to do anything. In this inspirational comic strip, each chapter is dedicated to one of the distinguished personalities in the field of Science, Art, Literature, and Music. This comic illustrates not only the creative struggles faced by them in their respective fields but also the rules and methods they followed that led to the creation of their Magnus Opus.

The drawings were humorous and well- illustra
...more
Schizanthus Nerd
Jan 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
description

Using well known examples from literary, scientific, artistic and musical greatness, Gavin Aung Than has compiled a collection that highlights both the struggles and successes of these creative lives. Comics are used to illustrate quotes from each person. These are accompanied by a short summary of their lives.

The people included in this book faced various struggles including addiction, physical and mental illness, rejection, grief and lack of recognition of their genius during their lives. Desp
...more
Carol Flores
Mar 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
[ Re-read in 2020 for #RayCharlesReadathon24 ]

As a creator and a writer, there comes a time when we struggle to put our ideas on paper (or any media for that matter). Negative thoughts and the feeling that we’re not good enough is more often than you can imagine, and so, our work becomes tedious instead of bringing joy to our souls.

This book was a reminder that every person who dedicates to art, or who is passionate about something that requires to use their creativity, has struggled physically,
...more
Resh (The Book Satchel)
I've been such a big fan of Gavin's work for years. I LOVED this book. If you are a creative and you are struggling with a slump or lack of inspiration, definitely pick this up. It will rejuvenate and inspire you so much. This is smaller (more like a pocket book) than the other comic books published by Gavin. It has snippets of life of famous and important artists (writers, painters, etc ) out in the world and a small write up about the artist.

Trust me, it was such an inspiring read. I read it
...more
Carol Flores
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novels
As a creator and a writer, there comes a time when we struggle to put our ideas on paper (or any media for that matter). Negative thoughts and the feeling that we’re not good enough is more often than you can imagine, and so, our work becomes tedious instead of bringing joy to our souls.

This books was a reminder that every person who dedicates to art, or who is passionate about something that requires to use their creativity, has struggled physically, mentally and sometimes they’ve given everyth
...more
Morris
Jan 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018-read
This is a unique book but did not appeal to me. I can neither recommend or not recommend.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Yedhu
Zen Pencils always lift my spirits. They are good for a quick shot of inspiration. The latest book is no different. Like the previous two, Creative Struggle is yet another collection of inspirational comics, most of which are available to read for free in zenpencils.com. I love to keep hardcopy versions because they are worth it, and are good for gifting.



Gavin Aung Than gives colours to these magnificent and inspirational quotes by famous personalities and transform them into stories. He illustr
...more
Rebecca
Flipped through -- many of these stories of creative struggle I was familiar with (Van Gogh, Kahlo), though I liked seeing them in Gavin Than's cartoon format. My favorite part was his own advice at the end, especially: Routine is sexy (showing up really is the hardest part), Distractions are the devil, Avoid comparison (the Instagram wormhole of inadequacy), the work is the reward. Here is a sample of his work - Theodore Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena" speech (which, incidentally, is where Brene ...more
Ana // TheBooktarian
Dec 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, netgalley, 2017
And that's what separates the pros from the hobbyists, the ability to create when you don't feel like creating. The ability to "master their disinclination"
For an aspirant writer, who wants to start writing her debut novel this year, Zen Pencils: Creative Struggle was definitely an important and inspiring read.

It shares a light on how everyone's method is different, specially creators: everyone has a different method and a different goal, but all good creators stick to their goal and don't
...more
Vellum Voyages
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
5 helms


Please follow me on my blog :) Review originally posted on Vellum Voyages (www.vellumvoyages.com)


I really enjoyed reading this.....Not only was it informative about some major creative figures and their lives but it was also inspirational....especially if you are one of those lucky creative souls! Creative struggles inspires you to keep your chin up....remember everyone is a critic...but you can't please everyone when you want to please yourself...And for those seeking a creative pathway
...more
Molly
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've really liked Zen Pencils ever since Gavin Than's art began appearing online. This is a great volume about the various ways that creative folks from all walks of life (ranging from art to music to science) have worked to overcome adversity and continue their creative work. Strangely, perhaps, I found that the most valuable bit was Than's own advice to modern-day creators. ...more
Rogene Carter
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An inspiring and well-done collection from the popular series. Highly recommended.
Elaine
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic, non-fic
I've never heard of Zen Pencils before but I picked Zen Pencils: Creative Struggle up because it caught my eye when I was browsing the nonfiction shelf in my local library.

This was a great, informative read told in my second favorite art forms, art!

I knew most of the backgrounds of the creative artists outlined here except for Frida Kahlo.

I was unaware at how much pain and suffering she endured throughout her life and I was shocked not at how much she had accomplished as a celebrated a
...more
Newly Wardell
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Its takes a certain courageousness to create something. This book uses the words of some of histories greatest minds to offer insight and encouragement.
Ellen Klock
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gavin Aung Than has found a unique approach to introducing the young reader to the backstory behind those famous people whose names are a familiar part of our modern culture. What a surprise that their talents didn't flow naturally but were often accompanied by numerous trials and tribulations, providing inspiration to others as they persevered in spite of poverty, physical infirmaries, lack of opportunities, internal demons, or other adversities.

Zen Pencils - Creative Struggle: Illustrated Adv
...more
Ellen Klock
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Gavin Aung Than has found a unique approach to introducing the young reader to the backstory behind those famous people whose names are a familiar part of our modern culture. What a surprise that their talents didn't flow naturally but were often accompanied by numerous trials and tribulations, providing inspiration to others as they persevered in spite of poverty, physical infirmaries, lack of opportunities, internal demons, or other adversities.

Zen Pencils - Creative Struggle: Illustrated Adv
...more
Leanne
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Big fan of Gavin Aung Than's comics so when I saw this at BookXcess in 2019, I had to get it. I initially didn't know if I was going to gift it to my colleague who was a designer. Then I ended up keeping it and only got around to reading it today.

Well, let's just say this book is very inspiring because after reading it halfway, I decided that I shall draw in my sketchbook. Today! The first comic really made a strong impression on me (Van Gogh on tackling The Blank Canvas) and I went YEAH and ju
...more
Namratha
Gavin Aung Than’s inspirational and feisty comics have been a guiding light for me since I discovered his site: zenpencils.com. Picking up his books requires no dilly-dallying, no second thoughts for me. Through his artwork, he conveys the words, messages and thoughts of real-life stalwarts and prods us a little bit along our own creative journey.

CREATIVE STRUGGLE is no different. Dedicated to the creative heavyweights of the world, he takes us into the insecurities of Van Gogh, the nightmar
...more
v.
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
For everyone who's ever felt only geniuses are capable of art, or that masterpieces come into existence miraculously, this collection of cartoons reminds us that the opposite is true. These stories from Gavin Aung Than's blog use a clever format -- taking quotes from famous artists, inventors, and thinkers, and literally illustrating their point. Each story uses their own words to remind us how much persistence, dedication, and also freedom and flexibility it takes to unleash our creativity. Unl ...more
Paul Franco
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another volume of the fun and educational series featuring quotes illustrated, this time with a more specific perspective, as the title tells.
Van Gogh died having sold only one painting. I know that’s not the takeaway from his story, but it’s what I’ll remember.
No mention of Einstein’s wife in that entire section. Huh.
“Mortifying negative.”
Frankenstein is mentioned as the first sci-fi story, but that would be Paradise Lost.
The look on Marie Curie’s face at the gas coming in through the window. .
...more
Carrie Griffin
This was a very inspiring collection of cartoons that went along perfectly with the quotes from many inspirational artists, musicians, writers, and scientists. Each quote stood out to me especially from those that I admire myself. Another great addition to each of the quotes was the little biography that came after each one so that you could learn about each of the people a little more. There were quotes from Vincent van Gogh, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Mary Shelley, Stephen King, Ernes ...more
Swapnil
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Gabin Aung Than's book is comforting. An interesting, easy read brilliantly illustrated by Aung Than, it puts to ease the insecurities that we, creative individuals often deal with.

Although a lot of the incidents talked about are the ones that one would be already aware of (Einstien's stint at the patent office, Curie's lab, Shelly's Frankenstien epiphany or Beethoven's hearing loss and many others), for me the essence of the book was more than the information of the incident itself. It was abou
...more
Caffeinated Fae
I picked this book up on Netgalley by randomly looking through the graphic novels section on the website. This looked interesting and honestly, I'm really glad I took the time to read it. Gavin Aung Than was able to perfectly illustrate the struggle that many creative individuals have. It was truly inspiring. I think many people are scared to begin a project, or take a step out and create something different. This book has shown that you're not alone and the great creators in the world dealt wit ...more
Traci Kismarton
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: galleys
Creative Struggle is wonderful. It is such an uplifting, inspirational book. I was familiar with Zen Pencils before picking up this book, so I was thrilled to see this collection.

My favorite piece was the section on Stephen King and his giant desk. Its inspiring to see the priorities of someone you consider to be the best of the best.

I really enjoyed seeing the struggles and successes of some of the most well known people that have ever lived. It was inspiring to read about how they all perse
...more
Wayne McCoy
Jun 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
'Zen Pencils: Creative Struggle' by Gavin Aung Than is a new volume in the inspiring cartoon series.

This time around creative blocks are discussed in the words of famous people who have had them. From Vincent Van Gogh and his blank canvas to Ludwig Van Beethoven and his dwindling hearing, these are pretty inspiring stories about where to create and how to overcome the adversity that keeps the artist from creating.

I really like this series. The art is good and the quotes here are inspiring. Inclu
...more
Anita
Jan 01, 2018 rated it liked it
This volume showcases the creative greats; from artist to inventor, from author to chemist -- all of whom underwent some form of hardship in their quest to birth something previously unformed or undiscovered. Among the challenges faced were physical deficiency (Beethoven's loss of hearing) and mental anguish (Mary Shelley's writer's block).

This book is suitable for readers of all ages, in that the comically-rendered graphics complement the (written) message, which is one of encouragement to per
...more
Rubin Mathias
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Gavin's descriptions at the bottom of each comic are what I have always found super cool but underrated in general.

To a little kid trying to make sense of the vast information out there and getting his core beliefs redefined his comic for Pale Blue Dot was incredibly influential! The very fact that I'm writing this is because of his Akira Kurosawa comic The Note Taker: "Don't read books while lying down on bed".

The back cover with Tesla saying "Global wireless communication, I knew it was possib
...more
giftedteacher
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
The cartoons illustrate how famous people (artists, writers, composers, etc.) struggled -- and can be an inspiration to others. Even though I was already familiar with most of these creators, I still learned things. For instance, I had known that Frida Kahlo had a hard life, but I didn't know how physically difficult it was for her. Parts of this book could be helpful in a history class and/or any class dealing with creativity, such as art or writing.

I received a free electronic copy of this boo
...more
Christa Van
Oct 30, 2018 rated it liked it
A lovely little reminder that even the greats have struggled with creating. Each chapter talks about a specific person and their personal story with creating. Mary Shelley struggled with the story she was writing as part of a contest. She could not come up with anything but was finally blessed with an idea that came to her in a dream. This year we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publishing of her dreamed story, you might have heard of it, "Frankenstein." Sixteen other stories will convinc ...more
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Killer Fashion: Poisonous Petticoats, Strangulating Scarves, and Other Deadly Garments Throughout History
  • Cat's Cafe: A Comics Collection
  • Help!: How to Be Slightly Happier, Slightly More Successful and Get a Bit More Done
  • The Dark Archive (The Invisible Library, #7)
  • I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf
  • Drawing Power: Women's Stories of Sexual Violence, Harassment, and Survival
  • Watson on the Orient Express (Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mystery #8)
  • The Selfish Crocodile
  • The Cry of the Owl
  • Witchy Warnings (Witches of Shadow Lane #4)
  • Witch in a Crisis (A Blair Wilkes Mystery #10)
  • Wraiths & Writers (Library Witch Mystery #7)
  • Graves and Golf Carts (Divine Place #3)
  • Playing With Fury (Federal Bureau of Magic #9)
  • The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump
  • Feel Better In 5: Your Daily Plan to Feel Great for Life
  • The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards
  • Stand Still Like the Hummingbird
See similar books…
87 followers
Gavin Aung Than is a freelance cartoonist based in Melbourne, Australia. After working in the corporate graphic design industry for 8 years he quit his unfulfilling job at the end of 2011 to focus on his true passion, drawing cartoons. Gavin launched Zen Pencils at the start of 2012, a cartoon blog which adapts inspirational quotes into comic stories, and hasn’t looked back since.

News & Interviews

  Die-hard mystery fans are always on the hunt for their next supremely satisfying whodunit. To help you stock that Want to Read shelf, we asked...
49 likes · 22 comments
“And that's what separates the pros from the hobbyists, the ability to create when you don't feel like creating. The ability to "master their disinclination".” 2 likes
More quotes…