Gilbert’s TED talk on creativity and being creative
interested me in her newest book Big Magic Creative Living Beyond Fear. What draws me to Gilbert’s theories on creativity and creative living is her willingness to embrace mystery and the unknown in regards to the creative process. Her words are a challenge the status quo regarding creatives in general and writers in particular. I’m not going to list them all, but just a few ideas that caught my attention and made me think deeper about the creative process.
Gilbert writes in a clear and encouraging manner, defining living a creative life as “living a life that is driven more strongly about curiosity than by fear” (9) and then writes about how to allow your curiosity to trump your fear. She writes “creative living is a path for the brave. We all know this…fear is a desolate boneyard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun” (13). Fear is a constant companion to those practicing any type of creativity; “This is common knowledge; sometimes we just don’t know what to do about it (13). Gilbert tells you what to do about it, and it isn’t the same tired advice about working through, shoving aside etc. She makes space for her fear; “plenty of space” (24).
It isn’t like a lot of books on creativity I’ve read and that is a good thing. I’ve never bought into the “books are like my children” line of thought; no, my children are far more precious and special than any book I will ever write.
Gilbert, Elizabeth. Big Magic Creative Living Beyond Fear. Riverhead Books: New York. 2015. Print.
Not by becoming “human spam. They’re everywhere, and they exist in every profession. They don’t want to pay their dues, they want their piece right here, right now. They don’t want to listen to your ideas; they want to tell you theirs…At some point, they didn’t get the memo that the world owes none of us anything.” (124). You draw attention to your work by “sharing like an artist:”
As with Steal Like An Artist, Show Your Work is packed with wise advice and clever artwork.
The writing is witty and concise, but also though-provoking. Kleon writes “The trouble with imaginative people is that we’re good at picturing the worst that could happen to us. Fear is often just imagination taking a wrong turn. Bad criticism is not the end of the world” (150-151). That resonated with me when I first read it, and still resonates reading it again. This is one of the reasons why the writing works in this book–Kleon writes it as it is. This book sits on my desk by Steal Like An Artist,easy to get to whenever I need it.
Kleon, Austin. Show Your Work. New York:Workman Publishing. 2014. Print.
This short, but chock full of creative advice book is one of my favorites. A lot of wisdom is packed into this squat, square shape form and post-it flags in a rainbow of colors mark my favorite pages. The book’s format is simple—black and white, a chalkboard on the printed page.
What really works in this book is its to the point advice on being creative (the full title of the book is Steal Like an Artist 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative). The first flagged page in this book is in the second chapter—“Don’t Wait Until You Know Who You Are To Get Started.” On page twenty-seven, Kleon states: “In my experience, it’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are.” Maybe you’ve already known this to be true, but for me, it was a gem that caught my attention and started me thinking. He then goes on to talk—briefly—about imposter syndrome, “a very real thing that runs rampant in educated people.” The clinical definition is “a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.” (27)
That’s me, all right. Unable to shake the feeling that I don’t know what I’m doing, that I’m just “winging it” and someday someone will find me out. But then he finishes this section with “Guess what: None of us do. Ask anyone doing truly creative work, and they’ll tell you the truth: They don’t know where the good stuff comes from. They just show up and do their thing. Every day” (28).
I was hooked on this book from that point forward. I keep my copy on my desk, where I can reference it any time I need. Other thoughts from his book that resonated with me:
“The manifesto is this: Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use—do the work you want to see done” (48). In this section, he takes the old adage “write what you know,” and changes it up to “write what you like” and go from there. “If all of your favorite makers got together and collaborated, what would they make with you leading the crew?” (48)
To learn more about the book, visit Steal Like An Artist where he lists the ten steps to unlocking your creativity and talks about how the book got started. He also states on this page that “A book is never finished, only abandoned, so I’ll be posting a lot of my continuing research on my Tumblr.” Also visit his blogger kit--too much good stuff to put here. You can take a look at the covers and some of the content of Steal Like An Artist.
Kleon is the author of Newspaper Blackout and Show Your Work.(subject of a future blog post)