My wife got used to the small creative experiments and exercises that I take up pretty early in our marriage. From fiddling with a Rubik’s cube to occasional collaging, and now to a steady flow of ideas for how to get our little ones engaged in making art, she entertains them all. And she’s even stopped asking me where they come from. Because she knows they almost always originate from the books and blog of Austin Kleon.
I’ve been a fan of Kleon’s since his first book, Steal Like an Artist was published in 2012. It came out at an interesting time for me. It was a time when I’d started writing again after several years off, and I was grappling with what that meant for my future. And it gave me a whole new view into what being a writer could—and perhaps should—be. That book profoundly shaped my creative process and the way I thought about making art. His next book was influential as well, but not to the same degree (though that’s a really high bar, to be honest). Needless to say, I’m thankful he wrote another.
Keep Going did not disappoint. I sat down yesterday and read it in two sittings. And I will start it again soon.
Kleon’s message is simple and right there in the title. For artists, the most important thing is to keep working. And after last year, that’s exactly what I needed to hear. But it’s more than just a simple piece of advice. Kleon advises his fellow artists to keep going that simple, practical, and inspirational. In the book he gives the reader 10 ways that an artist can persevere, day after day. These bits of guidance range from “Every Day is Groundhog Day” to “When in Doubt, Tidy Up.” But this book is not just full of practical advice. Kleon does something all too rare in the world of creativity, productivity, or (dare I say) self-help books, he manages to point the reader from the practicals to the bigger, philosophical issues at play. He does not start with some big, grand theory. Instead he starts with the practical, the everyday, and then leads the reader to bigger insights.
It was with this book that I realized Kleon is gradually building a fully fleshed out philosophical approach to creativity in the 21st century. Steal Like an Artist explains how artists and their voices are shaped and made. Show Your Work wrestles with the difficulties of getting art into the world, but also why the struggle is worth it. And in this installment, Kleon urges artists to persevere and he equips them with a mindset and the tools to do so. With this series of books, Kleon offers artists a very specific vision for creativity. And it’s a very good one. I for one hope he does not stop at only three books.
I am probably not an objective reviewer when it comes to this author, but I don’t really care. This book was immensely helpful and if you need a little push to keep making things, you should definitely pick it up.