I am a big fan of Austin Kleon and his books, blog and email newsletter. I have been following his career for several years. I find his approach to creativity — which is part writing, part collage, part drawing — to be very inspiring.
I know some people had a knee-jerk reaction to the title of his first book, Steal Like An Artist but I appreciated that it started the conversation about how to be creatively inspired without crossing the line into mimicry or copyright infringement. There’s also a lot of other good content in Steal Like an Artist so, if you haven’t read it, don’t get hung up on the title and give it a chance.
Since Steal Like An Artist, he’s published two more books in his series of creative inspiration books. The second book in the series is Show Your Work which delves into when, where and how to share your work. It’s a great follow-up to Steal Like An Artist. It focuses on using social media to keep yourself accountable and when its okay to step away.
What I really want to discuss is Austin Kleon’s newest book Keep Going, which could not have been more poignantly titled for 2020 is he had tried. The subtitle is “10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad.” How incredibly timely. He couldn’t have planned the book or title better for 2020 if he’d tried.
Even if you don’t decide to purchase the previous volumes of the series, Keep Going is a book I highly recommend for any creative thinkers who need some advice to, not ironically, keep going in 2020.
Just looking at the back of the book and the chapters sound incredibly relevant: “Everyday is Groundhog Day,” “You Are Allowed to Change Your Mind,” “Demons Hate Fresh Air,” and “Plant Your Garden.” These chapters, in particular, stand out as poignant for anyone living through COVID-19, self-isolating, social distancing, distance learning, zoom meetings, etc, etc, ad nauseum.
Above is one of the pages inside Keep Going. There is advice here that we, as pen-and-paper fans, can certainly support like making lists and writing in a diary. Pandemic-me heartily supports taking naps.
There are lots of little thought provoking nuggets throughout Keep Going. Often, like with many self-help books, the book often tells things we all know deep down. Having the information organized succinctly in ways that help remind us (me, really) what is important and to slow down is so helpful though. I feel like I spend so much time going, going, going… I sometimes forget to ask why or what is the goal or do I like what it is I’m going towards. Kleon’s books always challenge me to consider not just if I’m making but why.
The section “Disconnect from the world…” is valid even in the age of COVID-19. Disconnecting from the world (and in our case, the internet, news, podcasts, etc) is something we need to do, just to regain our sanity and perspective. We have spent too much time these days circling the drain of news despair and clicking refresh on endlessly depressing statistics. Not that our art cannot reflect and react to our frustration and anger but in order to react, we have to step away and formulate our own opinions and perspectives.
These books can be read digitally, but being able to sit down with an analog book, a notebook to jot down passages that most resonate and a favorite beverage and be “disconnected from the world” for a little while really helps to get in-tune with the world — be it the birds in the trees, the texture of the table you where you are sitting, the sound of your own breathing or the cat or dog sitting near you.
If you can’t tell, I highly recommend Keep Going as a paper kick-in-the-pants to regain some creative equilibrium in a very uncertain time.
And, you’re in luck, I have an extra copy of Keep Going for one lucky reader.
TO ENTER: Leave a comment below and tell me what creative challenge/goal you’d like to tackle or overcome. Play along and type in something. It makes reading through entries more interesting for me, okay? One entry per person.
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FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Thursday, August 6,2020. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Friday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your actual email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner does not respond within 5 days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. Shipping via USPS first class is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance will have to be paid by the winner. We are generous but we’re not made of money. US and APO/AFO only, sorry.
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51 comments / Add your comment below
My creative goal is To better manage my time and prioritize time for creative activities, rather than squeezing them in around and after everything else.
Having to move all of my consulting and training online
Challenged? Who, me? I mean, like getting myself out of my doldrums and into action? Like overcoming my fear of failure? Like thinking I don’t have a fresh idea to pursue or anything original to say? I don’t see how those add up to challenges! Just kidding. I really need this book!
My most needed goal to aspire to achieve is “Forget the noun, do the verb.” So many ideas, so much hesitance, and little will to just get started.
Being creatively challenged is a part of my job as an experimental accounting graduate student. Designing the (near) perfect experiment would be the dream creative challenge and the best part is that I do it everyday.
I’d like to incorporate little drawings in my journal, but seem to be suffering from perfectionism. Recurring theme. Work in progress. Thanks, Ana!
I worry that my muse caught Covid-19 and well, they say she will be out of action for a long while. In the meantime, I guess, I’ll have to take Austin’s advice and do things myself the hard way. I could use a manual!
I’ve just started a project to help me learn more advanced Lego techniques involving gears and moving parts. I’m very excited about it!
I’m finding that with these unsettled times, unstructured, “creative” time leads to worrying instead of inspiration. This book sounds like a good way to re-focus thinking.
Working on a general goal to just write more by journaling with prompts and starting to write letters again. Specifically, hoping/wishing for a gear to click and delving into more “writing” writing. Thank you!
I love to find new ideas to get me motivated
This sounds like an author to check out,
thanks for the recommendation!
My goal is to just reach my goals. I have several things going at the same time and just need to get the focus to get the job done. These look like great books. Thank you for the opportunity
I am very overdue on releasing the last book in my epic fantasy series. I have only myself (and mental health issues) to blame, but this sounds like it could be an inspiring read right now.
I recently had a great conversation with a friend that helped me work out some of the issues with the novel I’m writing. Now I feel refreshed and ready to dive back into it! So my goal is to write 1000 words per day of my novel. Thanks for recommending this book, it looks like just what I’d need.
I’m really good at starting my creative projects but I can’t seem to finish them within the same time Period. I usually set them aside for years and then re yen to them, still loving them, and finding out they’re over 75% or more complete. My goal is to learn to start and finish without years in between so I feel I have something to show for my efforts. I love process (the journey) more than final product (the destination) but I’m learning to love the destination too. It’s ironic to me that, as a traveler, it’s the opposite!
Getting my new house ready and all in shape, especially also my garden.
I’d like to improve my creative lettering.
I am sporadically creative but I would like to develop a daily practice. Thanks for your work on this blog!
How to create when in overwhelm? There’s a spark inside that keeps pushing to get out. There is a brain that says, “take care of stuff first!”. It’s a challenge at any time, but especially now, with COVID-19, family members with health problems, me waiting for a surgery I’d rather not have but can’t avoid….
I seem to spend my time cleaning and reading, which is all well and good, but it feels like time to get a move on now. Sigh.
I used to participate in Nanowrimo every year, but I stopped a few years ago after a particularly awful year personally. I enjoy writing creatively, but that year really sucked something out of me that I haven’t figured out how to get back. Anyway, I would love to either start something new or revisit one or more of the drafts I’ve already written. I just need some good old-fashioned motivation. (I’ve read and own Steal Like an Artist; it’s sitting on a shelf with all my other creative/writing-type books. Perhaps I should go read it again.) Thanks for the chance!
When creativity, along with the desire to be peaceful and centered calls, so do the voices demanding that I get this done, do that, finish some household task. If only I pay the bills right now, I can feel calm enough to write or paint. If only I organize my desk now, I can sit down with a clear mind to meditate, ruminate, record my thoughts and maybe even start that blog. Ha!
Well, my creativity has stalled.. … … (cue crickets) … … Have got to get back on track (and soon). Thanks for offering this.
Like a lot of people here, my writing and creativity has stalled, too. I have been participating in a monthly reading series (Festival of Words’ Pieces of Hope–find it on FB) and I read some old stuff there, but writing new stuff has been hard. The last thing I want to write about is the pandemic, but I can’t seem to find my way to other subject matter. Even my letter writing and journaling is adrift.
Thank you for the giveaway, as always.
My challenge to overcome is dwelling too much on the tools. Just take the damn photos!
My challenge is finding a creative approach to my first year of teaching, under the current circumstances.
Natalie, I am a teacher (29 years and counting). You will be fabulous! My best advice: do not be afraid try new ideas. The best teacher is risk-taking! Good luck!
Not entering, but just wanted to say that I found the book very inspiring, too, and full of great ideas. I was also pleased to realize that I am already doing much of what he recommends (though I still have much to learn, too). There’s something in the book for everyone.
I’d love to really try to draw! I never really worked on it as a kid, because I didn’t like not being good the first time. Now the problem is I have so many interests it’s hard to do all of them. But I’d like to try.
I’d like to become a better cook. I’m good at following recipes, but would like to the person who can look at a pile of ingredients and know what to do with them.
To meet my reading goal for they year
I am have really gotten into calligraphy, and I have to remember that I can’t learn every font all at once. The basics are important! Stick with one type and practice! If I am too scattered, I will learn nothing!
Most definitely finishing (I started to type trying and then decided I’d better not waffle…) an artist book edition I started many years ago before school starts in the fall 🙂
My biggest creative challenge has been kickstarting the editing process for my novel I wrote 6 years ago now for my undergrad thesis. It’s been a struggle of starts and stops mixed in with all the joys of being busy with life.
i will love to sketch in my sketchbooks more consistenly. Will also love to work on my hand lettering skills.
I’d definitely like to work on my calligraphy. I just haven’t gotten into the groove yet. And… that means I need to clean off my desk first… so I guess that’s two projects that will help foster creativity 🙂
I have trouble with rambling exposition. I don’t know if this book could be helpful in that sense but I’d read it anyway.
I need to pick that camera back up…
I’ve begun writing a long-delayed book that addresses Robert Burton’s classic and funny The Anatomy of Melancholy. (Not my first book.) What kick-started me this spring was the realization that Burton, a cleric and academic, was in effect sheltering in place, as were many other people who achieved some large work. I would like to have some brief nudges to help me continue.
I love analog books! And how to keep going is something that’s becoming a bigger question as we approach fall still fighting this virus.
Keep…writing…cover…letters…(and sending out resumes). I can write almost anything…but cover letters (especially when they aren’t likely to be read) are a special challenge.
I have collected fabrics for a couple of years to make a crazy quilt. Thought I would start when we went into lock down but I never got around to it. I get overwhelmed by the thought of completing it. I need to focus on baby steps.
My creative challenge is learning pen and ink drawing.
I want/need to learn how to free motion quilt on my home sewing machine. I have several special quilt tops that I made for my nieces and I want to finish them myself rather than paying someone else to quilt them on a long arm machine. Plus once I finally have this skill under my belt, it opens up a whole world of creative possibilities for me!
Feeling creative when everything is terrible is my big challenge right now.
I’d love to be able to set up my creative desk space so I don’t have to work off of my kitchen table. I think that would set my mind at ease and help me not make excuses.
I haven’t painted since March! My goal is to get back to it. I have ideas, but just haven’t felt the motivation or something.
I like to overcome my letter writing slump.
I’d like to get over my creative block and create some art every day. Finding a routine would be marvelous.
I’ve been having artists block for a long time and thought about painting one cacti a day to overcome it. My only challenge is I don’t know where to start.
I’d like to get right to work on my art first thing in the morning when I’m feeling most creative. Instead I’ve been listening to the news and collecting depressing thoughts. I have one of Austin’s books, Steal like an Artist, and it is really inspiring.
I’d like to tackle the challenge of sewing an article of clothing that fits. I bought myself a sewing machine in April and have figured out making masks and sewing a crossbody bag…next up is wearables!