I’ve felt “stuck” creatively since I graduated from my MFA program. Whether that was because of burnout, the anxiety of influence, or the daily stresses of life I can’t say for sure. All I know is that I’ve been pining for more consistent creativity again. Keep Going by Austin Kelon, the third book in the Steal Like an Artist series, came to me at exactly the right time: when I was getting back to both writing and illustration.
This sharp and pithy collection of creative rules and artistic suggestions is highlighted and underlined, nearly top to bottom. Thoughtful and salient words are intertwined with Kleon’s illustrations, blackout poetry, and quotes that, I suspect, have influenced Kleon’s own philosophy.
There has been much discussion about how to create art in the 21st century when we’re inundated with news and media and so many stories that can break down your spirit. Kleon’s philosophy about what it is to be an artist in this age is practical and actually helpful. I wrote down his rules and taped it above my desk as daily reminders. I have notes saved about how to graciously decline an invitation in order to keep the sanctity of your creative time.
But I don’t want to mislead anyone searching for a manual for creativity. This book is more than that. Yes, it provides pragmatic suggestions about how to bring creation to the forefront of your life, but it’s also a call to action. A call to artists who worry about the influence of their art, whether it will break through the onslaught of news stories and social media arguments. A call to pay attention, to beauty and importance. Kleon writes in rule #5, “What you chose to pay attention to is the stuff your life and work will be made of. ‘My experience is what I agree to attend to,’ psychologist William James wrote in 1890. ‘Only those items which I notice shape my mind.’”