This January (in 2021), I read (tbh binge-read) the three books of Austin Kleon I heard about. These were Steal Like an Artist, Show Your Work and Keep Going. The books tell you how you can be creative, grow as a creative professional and keep producing creative building blocks.
These three books by Austin have several tips about figuring out what’s the best for you, finding your tribe, improving your skills and many more.
This article contains the lessons from the third book – Keep Going. Keep Going book summary is about ten simple rules for how to stay creative, focused, and true to yourself – for life.
Check the other articles in this three-part Austin Kleon books summary:
- Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
- Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered
Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
Every day is Groundhog Day
Austin mentioned the creative life is not linear. It’s more like a loop or a spiral. You keep coming back to a new starting point after every project.
Yes, that’s how it is for me. Each project, whether personal or professional, is different. I have to begin the entire process all over again. Ideation, creation or promotion, whatever it is, is a repeated process.
So, you must find a repeatable way of working that insulates you from success, failure and the chaos of the outside world. Spend time on it, work at it every day, no matter what.
Yesterday’s over, tomorrow might never come, there’s just today and what you can do with it. And anyone can fight the battles of just one day.
Yes, there will be good days and bad days. days when you feel inspired, and days when you want to walk off a bridge.
But a daily routine will get you through the day and help you make the most of it.
If you would like to read quotes about keep going:
So, make time for whatever you do, and make lists. Get all your ideas out of your head and clear the mental space. This way, you’ll actually be able to do something about them.
The important thing is to make it to the end of the day, no matter what.
Build a bliss station
Austin suggested to build a bliss station; not just a where, but also a when. Make a daily appointment to disconnect from the world to connect with yourselves.
Creativity is about connection.
Of course, you must be connected to others in order to be inspired and share your own work. But you must also retreat from the world long enough to think, practice your art, and bring forth something worth sharing with others.
So, pop in some cheap earplugs and switch your phone or tablet to airplane mode. And you can transform any mundane commute or stretch of time into an opportunity to connect with yourself and your work.
Also, learn how to decline all sorts of invitations from the world.
Saying “no” to the world can be really hard. But sometimes it’s the only way to say “yes” to your art and your sanity.
Forget the noun, do the verb
Don’t focus on what you’re trying to be. Instead, concentrate on the actual work you need to be doing. As an artist, you don’t have to have a job title. Forget the noun, do the verb.
Play. It is the work of a child; and an artist too.
The great artists are able to retain the sense of playfulness throughout their careers. So, be detached from the results.
Don’t get bogged down. Stay light. Play.
Austin said one of the easiest ways to hate something you love is to turn it into your job. And yes, it’s true. When you start making a living from your work, resist the urge to monetise every single bit of your creative practice.
You must be mindful of what potential impact monetising your passions could have on your life.
Also, money is not the only measurement that can corrupt your creative practice. It’s easy to become as obsessed with online metrics as money.
Been there, done that!
I wrote on LinkedIn just because I got good views (and of course, clients). Both have kinda decreased now, and I don’t get much motivation to post regularly.
When your art is taken over by market considerations – what’s getting clicks, what’s selling – it can quickly lose the gift element that makes it art.
What to do when that happens?
Ummm pick somebody special in your life and make something special for them. If you have a big audience, make them something special and give it away.
The ordinary + extra attention = Extraordinary
Everything you need to make extraordinary art can be found in your everyday life. And the first step towards transforming your life into art is to start paying more attention to it.
So, slow down enough that you can actually look.
Your attention is one of the most valuable things you possess. And if you want to change your life, change what you pay attention to.
Slay the art monsters
What Austin wanted to convey was that great artists help people look at their lives with fresh eyes and a sense of possibility.
So, if your art is adding net misery to the world, walk away and do something else. The world doesn’t necessarily need more great artists. It needs more decent human beings.
You’re allowed to change your mind
Well, uncertainty is the very thing art thrives on. So, start each work not knowing exactly where you’re going or where you’ll end up.
That’s the only way to keep going and the only way to keep making art. Be open to possibility and allow yourself to be changed.
Do some real thing. Be in an environment in which you can try out all sorts of ideas and not be judged for them.
The Internet, unfortunately, is no longer a safe place to do any kind of experimental thinking, particularly for someone with an audience or any kind of “brand”.
So, to change your mind, go off-brand, and offline is the best place to be off-brand.
Interact with people who don’t share your perspective. Consider hanging out with those who aren’t like-minded as like-hearted. These are the people who are generous, kind, caring and thoughtful. They think about what you say, rather than just simply react.
And if you’re having trouble people to think with, seek out the dead. Read old books. Just visit the past for a bit.
When in doubt, tidy up
Productivity and creativity are not the same.
You’re often the most creative, when you’re the least productive. New ideas are formed by interesting juxtapositions, and interesting juxtapositions happen when things are out of place.
But maintain a balance in between chaos and order in the workspace. Keep your tools organised and your materials messy.
Tidying up is for when you’re stuck. It’s just a form of productive procrastination. Avoiding work by doing other work. And tidying without worrying too much about the results can be a soothing form of play.
It’s a part of your job to help tidy up the place, to make order out of chaos, to turn trash into treasure. Show beauty where others cannot see it.
Demons hate fresh air
Austin said, art requires the full use of your senses. And walking is a way to find possibility in your life when there doesn’t seem to be any left.
Walking is a great way to release the inner demons. And it is even greater to release the outer demons – corporations, marketers, politicians.
Check this productivity article too: Hack Your Morning and Win the Day
Plant your garden
As per Austin, a garden is essential to pay attention to the rhythms and cycles of trees.
You must pay attention to the rhythms and cycles of your creative output and learn to be patient in the off-seasons. Give yourself time to change and observe your own patterns.
Every day is a potential seed that we can grow into something beautiful.
OK, that was all from the book.
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