Creativity is a powerful tool, but it’s not always easy to wield. We’ve all gone through phases where we’ve felt uninspired or suffered from brain fog.
That’s why we asked actress, producer and designer Sarah Jessica Parker and André Leon Talley, former editor-at-large of Vogue, how they fuel their creativity. And the two fashion icons individually responded with the same answer: They go to the library.
Parker is a library enthusiast who understands the benefits of unplugging to connect with herself more deeply. She’s also been a passionate reader her whole life. “There’s something beyond just holding a book, and the experience of walking into a place that is quiet. The sole focus really is the quiet, solo exercise of examining and picking and choosing and sitting and reading and having a very private, important exchange with letters,” said Parker, who is an honorary chair of the American Library Association's Book Club Central and honorary board member of United for Libraries.
She continued, “At home, I’m always telling my son, ‘Read more, read more. Put everything down and read for pleasure,’ which is really important for young people, for their imagination and their ability to be their own creative people. They’re getting so much of everybody else’s creative input that when they don’t read themselves for pleasure and imagine things, seeing things in their own mind and their own mind’s eye, they miss out."
The actress feels so strongly about reading that she recently started her own book imprint at the publishing house Hogarth. For Parker, it’s all about finding books that move her, teach her something about empathy and curiosity and allow her to get to know herself better.
For Talley, going to the library was how he found and developed his passions. It started with trips to the library as a young adult in his hometown of Durham, North Carolina. He read countless books about fashion history and became well versed about the industry he wanted to pursue.
“I discovered who I was, by reading…That’s how I learned about Coco Chanel, and Paris, and Balenciaga, Audrey Hepburn, and Sophia Loren,” said Talley. “…Reading opened me to the world. With the phone, you miss it all!”
He continued: “The experience of going to the library was so important to me. The idea of walking to the library, of seeing, thinking, and getting to the library, and the experience of the book, the experience of the Dewey Decimal system, the card catalog, pulling out the card. All of this was part of the experience, of the learning. I loved the library and it was a great experience that has stayed with me throughout my life.”
Talley recalled a day in December of 1975 when he was working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan and ended up meeting meeting one of his idols, C.Z Guest.
I love fashion and I love the people behind fashion. Not just the clothes, but the people who make fashion. I love the makers, the doers, the shakers and the achievers. I knew that books were my way out of this kind of closed environment.
Meeting the New York socialite and fashion designer was a full-circle moment for Talley because he had read all about Guest as a young boy. In fact, Guest was one of many fashion icons he discovered in the halls of his hometown library and eventually went on to collaborate, engage and become friends with.
“I love fashion and I love the people behind fashion. Not just the clothes, but the people who make fashion. I love the makers, the doers, the shakers and the achievers. I knew that books were my way out of this kind of closed environment.”
So, if you’re looking to disconnect, recharge or get your creative juices flowing, you may want to take a page out of Parker and Talley’s playbook and visit your local library. You never know if the visit will spark your next big idea, uncover a deep thought, or help you understand yourself just a little bit better.