Our pick for May’s Creative Business Book Club was Keep Going by Austin Kleon. In it, he discusses 10 ways to stay creative in good times and bad using easy-to-read chapters and fun visuals along the way. The book is the perfect thing to reach for when you’re feeling creatively stumped. It serves as a necessary reminder that there are plenty of ways to refresh your creativity and keep going with your work.
Here are the highlights of the book and our book club discussion:
Every day is Groundhog Day
Create a routine. It’s a simple and widely known idea that by creating a routine for yourself, you’ll be able to make the most out of your days. You’ll be able to work productively and make room for creativity to spark.
And while we’ve heard the sentiment echoed time and time again, I think it’s always an important reminder, especially if you have yet to create one for yourself. I know that I personally haven’t built a solid routine that has stuck. But I know that I just need to create something, anything, to get going. As Kleon says, “What your daily routine consists of is not important. What’s important is that the routine exists. Cobble together your own routine, stick to it most days, break from it once in a while for fun, and modify it as necessary.”
(Side note: In this chapter, Kleon also references a book by Mason Currey called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work and if you know me, then you know that I immediately added that to my book list.)
Build a Bliss Station
“Silence and solitude are crucial. Our modern world of push notifications, 24/7 news cycles, and constant contact is almost completely inhospitable to the kind of retreat artists must make in order to focus deeply on their work.” In this chapter, Kleon suggests that you need to have either a room or a certain time of day blocked off where you can just work and create without any distraction from the outside world. It may sound scary to be completely disconnected from everything, but I think he’s right when he says we must “disconnect from the world so that we can connect with ourselves.”
Forget the Noun, Do the Verb
Maker, freelancer, entrepreneur, creative. Whatever title you give yourself, make sure you’re actually focusing on the work behind it. Having your own business or craft has been glamorized thanks to things like Instagram and 30 Under 30 lists, but if it’s the path you choose, then it’s important not to forget about the actual work that goes into it. Kleon emphasizes, “Let go of the thing you’re trying to be (the noun), and focus on the actual work you need to be doing (the verb). Doing the verb will take you someplace further and far more interesting.”
When was the last time someone mentioned a hobby they have and your immediate response was along the lines of, “you should start a business!”? We’re all guilty of it. We live in a very entrepreneurial culture, which is great in a lot of ways. But it has also influenced our way of thinking and makes us look at everything as a potential opportunity. In this chapter, Kleon emphasizes the importance of having hobbies or doing something simply for the joy of it.
This is definitely something I want to implement more this summer. A couple weeks ago I took a Machine Sewing workshop with Vanessa of Ronkita Design and was reminded of what it felt like to learn a new skill. Sewing is so different from writing. Getting to work with my hands and use my mind in a different way is exactly why taking up sewing would be a great way give my writing brain a break. These types of breaks are what we all need in order to be our most creative selves.
The Ordinary + Extra Attention = The Extraordinary
In this chapter, Kleon suggests that “really great artists are able to find the magic in the mundane.” I especially liked when he talked about keeping a daily diary to track the things he was noticing and thinking about. He says “pay attention to what you pay attention to” and I think that totally makes sense! Sometimes we spend more time and energy focusing on things we may not realize are important to us. But making note of something we’ve put a lot of thought into can help bring ideas to the surface.
Slay the Art Monsters
Simply put, Kleon states that “We’re all complicated. We all have personal shortcomings. We’re all a little creepy, to a certain degree. If we didn’t believe that we could all be a little better in our art than we are in our lives, then what, really, would be the point of art?” I think this quote speaks for itself, but this chapter also reminds us that if our art is ruining anyone’s life (our own lives included), then it’s not worth making.
You Are Allowed to Change Your Mind
I love this one. It can be so easy to think that those around you have it all together; that they know exactly what they’re doing. But it’s okay if you don’t feel this way. It’s okay to change your mind. It’s okay switch to a new career path, or to change directions on a project you’re working on, or even change the way you feel about something.
When in Doubt, Tidy Up
You might read this title and think, “No way, I thrive with a messy workspace!” And Austin Kleon would not argue with that. Tidiness is, of course, subjective. What he really means by this is that you should make sure your workspace is tidy enough that you can find things when you need them. It’s all about preparation. He says, “We don’t have to keep our spaces perfectly clean and tidy. We just have to keep them ready for when we want to work.”
Demons Hate Fresh Air
Ah, fresh air. Personally, I can’t think of a time when I went outside to clear my mind and went back to work not feeling refreshed. Going for a walk or even just sitting outside for a moment can work wonders on your creativity and productivity levels. We get way too much screen time these days, and the outdoors is the perfect way to balance that. Next time you’re feeling stuck or burnt out, go for a walk. I promise you’ll want to add it to your daily routine.
Plant Your Garden
Everything has its seasons. You may have a fruitful season, and the next may be slow. While it may feel scary or unpredictable, it’s important to be patient during the slow seasons. This is when true growth happens. This quote from Kleon stuck with me the most, so I’ll end the post with it: “I don’t want to know how a thirty-year-old became rich and famous; I want to hear how an eighty-year-old spent her life in obscurity, kept making art, and lived a happy life.”
Feature image from our studio visit and interview with artist, Codie Kyle.