KEEP GOING 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times & Bad, a review

I have mentioned before that I struggle at times to keep up a daily writing practice.   I was starting to slip off again after a fairly successful month of regular writing.  I found myself crankily (it’s a word now!) wondering if it really mattered as I turned on the car radio during my lunch break.  The next words I heard were, “KEEP GOING.”

Austin Kleon, author of the book KEEP GOING, 10 WAYS TO STAY CREATIVE IN GOOD TIMES AND BAD, was being interviewed by Kai Wright on WNYC.  I was so grateful for this coincidental encouragement that I bought his book the next day.  It’s a short book.  The 201 pages alternate between graphics and double-spaced text.  It’s more like 100 pages of written content.  Overall, I enjoyed this breezy presentation but I would have preferred a little more writing and a little less space.

The first five chapters were on on-topic. Kleon offers practical, executable advice to creatives on how to keep going. Every Day is Groundhog’s Day reminds us that the key to being a prolific artist is a daily practice. It’s “a repeatable way of working that insulates them from success, failure, and the chaos of the outside world. They all have identified what they want to spend their time on and they get up and work at it every day, no matter what.”

Chapter Two, Build a Bliss Station, is about creating time and space for your work. Forget The Noun, Do The Verb reminds us to focus on the work rather than what we are trying to be. Chapter Four, Make Gifts, is a call to shift our attention from worrying about money and metrics and to remember our love for the craft. Kleon demonstrates in The Ordinary + Extra Attention = The Extraoridinary that we need to slow down and pay attention or risk missing the inspiration that is all around us waiting to be discovered.

I loved the first five chapters.  Kleon was thoughtful in the way he expressed these concepts.  He included relevant anecdotes and quotations from other writers and artists who have inspired him.  Unfortunately, he went off the rails in the second half of the book.  Most of the remaining chapters were filled with his opinions about the role of art in the world rather than the how-tos that comprised the first half of the book.

Kleon’s thoughts might be interesting but I didn’t buy the book for out-of-left field pondering like this bit from Chapter Six, Slay the Art Monsters:

“If making your art is adding net misery to the world, walk away and do something else.  Find something else to do with your time, something that makes you and the people around you feel more alive.  The world doesn’t need more great artists. It needs more more decent human beings.”

The last four chapters were full of similar propaganda except for When in Doubt, Tidy Up.  That whole chapter had nothing to do with tidying up; it was just filler about sifting through the crap in your office because you might find something inspiring. The chapter title was nothing more than a blatant attempt to steal a little of Marie Kondo’s popularity. Kleon even references her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and why he doesn’t think it is useful to artists.

All in all, I would say KEEP GOING is worth picking up.  I would just retitle it to KEEP GOING Five Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad (+ Some Other Art-related Thoughts from the Author.)

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