On the first page of the third installment of his trilogy, author Austin Kleon wrote the sentence that keeps writers writing: “I wrote this book because I needed to read it.” Amen. The third and final book in his trilogy discusses “10 Ways To Stay Creative In Good Times and Bad.” Throughout the book, which is presented in his signature 5×5 shape, Kleon reminds readers that continuing to be creative is a lot of work but is worth it. He also reminds readers to focus less on the result and more on the process – something that I definitely need to keep in mind.
My notes and his quotes:
“Everything got better for me when I made peace with the fact that it might not ever get easier. The world is crazy. Creative work is hard. Life is short and art is long.”
“The important thing is to make it to the end of the day, no matter what. No matter how bad it gets, see it through to the end so you can get to tomorrow.”
I tend to look way too far down the road so I’m trying to learn to focus on days rather than weeks and then weeks instead of months: “The only thing we can really control is what we spend our days on. What we work on and hard we work on it.”
That being said, I will always rely on lists to keep my business and my life organized. “Lists bring order to the chaotic universe.” Yes!
On page 80, Kleon makes an excellent point that directly applies to me and so many people my age: “We’re now trained to heap praise on our loved ones by using market technology. The minute anybody shows any talent for anything, we suggest they turn it into a profession. This is our best compliment: telling somebody they are so good at what they love to do they could make money at it. We used to have hobbies; now we have ‘side hustles.’”
Although the term side hustle is annoying, the larger point Kleon makes is that people can’t just do anything for fun anymore. I think the internet and social media have become platforms for making hobbies into small businesses which is both positive and negative. I use social media to promote my business all the time – it’s free and reaches a wide network – but just because (for example) someone likes to sew doesn’t mean they have to make money doing it. They can just sew for fun and be happy about it.
To that point, Kleon states: “Social media has turned us all into politicians. And brands. Everyone’s supposed to be a brand now, and the worst thing in the world is to be off-brand.” While that’s accurate to a degree, social media has helped my business a ton and I’m happy to be saving the advertising dollars.
“Saying no is its own art form.” I’ve been articulating a version of this outlook for years because people – sorry I’m not sorry – are too nice. People think “no” is a four-letter word and it absolutely is not.
One of my favorites from this book: “Creativity can be used to organize your living room, paint a masterpiece, or design a weapon of mass destruction.” Yes!
The older I get, and the more I have going on, the more value I put on efficiency. So this is another helpful reminder from Kleon: “If you’ve lost your playfulness, practice for practice’s sake. You don’t have to go to such dramatic lengths as combustion. Musicians can jam without making a recording.” (Note: This does not mean musicians should create jam band music. Haha!)
On page 171, he talks about how his morning walks with his wife and two sons are where “ideas are born and books are edited.” So true. I’ve come with countless ideas, solved problems, and changed my attitude on walks and hikes with my dogs over the past several years. Getting outside is key, movement is key, and walking away from my desk is key.
“Walking is good for physical, spiritual, and mental health.” One of many things Kleon and I agree on – I’ve said it for years and will continue to stand by that sentence. Except I usually use the word emotional instead of spiritual.
This made me smile: “To have hope, you must acknowledge that you don’t know everything and you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
And one more reminder for me: “Worry less about getting things done. Worry more about things worth doing.”
Bottom line: I need to remember to lighten up and have fun. But I also need to keep doing what I love and continue the creative process.