Austin Kleon is one of my favorite writers about the creative process. His Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work! are both on my shelf and in the bibliography of Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy. He distills the hard truths of Making the Thing That Is Not into concise—and incisive—points, accompanied by pithy quotes and quirky illustrations.
So as soon as he announced a while back that he had a new book coming out, I pre-ordered it and waited. It arrived a couple of weeks ago, and it lives up to its predecessors in every way.
Kleon is an Energizer Bunny® of creativity, displaying a work ethic that should make any true Lichtenbergian flinch, so you might think that Keep Going is just a how-to instruction manual to teach you how to keep up with him. But it’s not.
Like many of us, Kleon was overwhelmed by many things: the condition of our body politic, raising two (adorable and talented) sons, the pressure of his success (!), and the never-ending slog of Making the Thing That Is Not. (Disclosure: I have read between the lines about his motivations here; I may be wrong.) He wrote Keep Going to clarify for himself the strategies he needed to not succumb to despair and lethargy.
As usual, he is correct. Self-care; unplugging; fail quickly to learn fast; ritual space/time; getting outside; play—these are among the ways he fights back against his own Sisyphean struggles as a creator, and I see my own struggles in his. (You will too.)
The trick, of course, is actually to put these strategies to use. I imagine that many readers are like me: so bogged down with minutiae, anger at our politics, and the never-ending sludge of our ABORTIVE ATTEMPTS that I forget to take Kleon’s advice. That’s on me, of course, not on Kleon.
I follow him on Twitter, so I’ve watched this book in its birthing as he shared his thoughts (Show Your Work!) on that platform and on his blog. I was amused when his son drew on the patio furniture cushions with chalk and was not the only one to suggest that they embroider the young artist’s work rather than clean it off (p.69). I’ve seen him put into practice the things he writes about in this book—his emotional/spiritual commitment to what he says is very real, and it shows in his writing. I think there’s more of Austin Kleon in this book than in his other two.
Bottom line: buy this book. Then follow its advice. I will try to do the same.