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‘Artists’ don’t stop

Austin Kleon’s newest effort – Keep Going

This newest work by Austin Kleon really hit me – at a time I needed it most.

2019 – Move to a new city

2019 – Renting in said city

2019 – Baby turns 1 year old

2019 – New job in city

2019 – New church

2019 – New routine

In the busiest season of our lives, this is a book that can help us grapple with the need to live, grow, and continue in the creative pursuits we started.

If you have a project, a non-profit, a mission, a manuscript, a quilt, whatever it is – let this be an encouragement to finish it.

When you feel stuck in a rut simply ask: What’s next?

Joseph Campbell encouraged what he called “creative incubation” in a safe place. Where is yours?

Kleon talks about the importance of action and says it’s not about being a writer (noun) but following the influence to write (verb).

He also states the importance of making gifts (as play). In a world where we’re trained to heap marketing phrases [even on our friends], our hobbies have been replaced by side hustles. This is never ideal. Remember fun things you did as a kid and revisit those.

Kleon points out Corita Kent’s life as a nun/artist as someone who found joy in everyday life.

There will inevitably be push back from what Jenny Offill calls ‘art monsters.’ And we’re encouraged to slay those monsters and never become one!

Kleon goes on to express the importance of changing our mindset as needed, and if the creative life becomes too cumbersome, to pause and tidy up, as tidying can be a form of exploration.

If the world inside your creative shell is too cramped (and demons are pushing in), he says “to exercise is to exorcise.” The solution: take a walk and get some fresh air. The stuff will be there when you get back to it.

Kleon relates a really interesting story of how gardening is a great example of his final point (Spend Time on Something that Will Outlast Them (meaning those demons). He describes how during the impending conflict of WWII, Leonard Woolf was planting flowers and his wife Virginia Woolf calls out to him (from his book Downhill All the Way)

“Suddenly I heard Virginia’s voice calling to me from the sitting room window: “Hitler is making a speech.” I shouted back, “I shan’t come. I’m planting iris and they will be flowering long after he is dead.”

Last March, twenty-one years after Hitler committed suicide in the bunker, a few of those violet flowers still flowered under the apple-tree in the orchard.”

It’s vital that we have things that will long outlast the hate, the violence that fuels this consumer-driven world.

My question(s): what is your iris? have you planted it yet?

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‘Real’ Artists Share

– from Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work

Our math teachers (I’m looking at you Allyson Upchurch Tucker, Teresa Rankin, and Michael Whittenburg) taught us to “show your work” in each step to solving a mathematical equation. It permitted us to see the process from beginning to end.

It also helped us prepare for scary acronyms like the ACTs & SATs.

Sure the graphing calculator could do a lot of the work for us, but it didn’t necessarily teach us how we arrived at the final number on our screen.

They (our teachers) encouraged us to write it out by hand.

The hand is tied to memory formation. When we scribbled down an idea in our notebook, it connected to our brain in a way the keyboard could not.

Much like Austin Kleon’s previous book, Steal Like an Artist, his Show Your Work manuscript expressed the importance of sharing, too.

It’s when we give away something, collaborate, take a trip together, that memories are shaped in ways that really stick (sometimes for life).

Much like in mathematics class, we don’t need to be a genius to:

discover something new,

to share our process with others,

remain intentional,

be curious,

tell our stories,


remain honest,

shoulder criticism,

accept gifts,

and not quit.

Don’t ever quit.

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Art as Theft

This was an interesting read for me when I really needed it (about 1 year ago).

I highly recommend it for a multitude of reasons:

1.) desire to be more creative 2.) desire to share ideas with others 3.) interest in drawing better doodles 4.) simplifying your schedule

Austin Kleon brings a whole new approach to business and the impact of sharing information.

He details it in a clear, very visual approach. And it really works!

He delves into the controversial topic that no idea is uniquely original, and we all ‘steal’ from our predecessors. He even thanks them in his acknowledgments section.

If you’re looking for a good place to see how he presented this to a collegiate audience, check out his message at:

This is information I’d have loved to hear in my collegiate years. It is all helpful (even beyond the creative process).

And what’s best of all?

He practices what he preaches. In reference to #6 on his list – The Secret: Do good work and share it with people – he practices what he preaches and does just that by making all these things available online –

I hope you enjoy it, too.