Keep Going - Austin Kleon

"There is no substitute

for hard work.

Never give up.

Never stop believing.

Never stop fighting." - George Orwell

Keep Going - Austin Kleon

The following are notes and insights inspired by the book, "Keep Going" by the author Austin Kleon. For a few years now, I have been stealing, remodeling, sharing, and recording ideas and adventures that derived from observations I have had while admiring artists, exploring the planet, and journaling experiences. This blog post is a collection of what I took to be important for me out of this particular book. I hope that you find simplicity in the ten suggestions like I did. Live on purpose.

My notes on the highlights:

1 - Every Day Is Groundhog Day

Creativity is not a journey, it is an action.

What would you do if you were stuck in one place, every day was exactly the same, and nothing you did mattered? How you answer this question is with your art.

Every moment is created from scratch.

Identify what you want to spend your time on, get up (or sit down), and do your work. Now! There is only now and what you do with it. This is the true "creative journey".

To establish your own routine, observe your days and moods.

A little imprisonment (self-discipline) can set you free by allowing you to take advantage of your time, energy, and talent.

Take breaks, but infrequently - playing hooky isn't as fun if you never go to school!

Make a list (~15 items) of things to do or focus on for the day. This gives you a starting point; every day and project needs one.

Make a list of what you WON'T do - this will help to define a project.

Other list ideas: pros versus cons, grateful for, and/or need help with.

At the close of each day recap the things you did accomplish alongside the things you'd like to get done tomorrow...

...then forget about it.

2 - Build A Bliss Station

You must play a little hide and seek in order to produce something worth being found.

Have a sacred space or time; preferably both but one or the other is still great.

Your mornings, just after waking, are fertile. Do not impregnate them with chaos. Stay away from your phone, laptop, the news, etc.

Attention is valuable, observer, and consider how you pay it.

Airplane mode can be a way of life. Our phones give us a lot but they take away these keen elements of discovery: loneliness, uncertainty, and boredom.

Not only is your phone just a contact device, but it is also a tool for making art.

Never pay for wifi. When you don't have it, use that time and the tools on hand creatively. When you need it, go find it.

Learn to say "no". Saying "no" is its own art form. Thank the asker, decline, offer another form of support if you can.

FOMO can be JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out).

3 - Forget The Noun, Do The Verb

You can't wait around for someone to call you an "artist" before you make art - you'll never make it.

"I AM" is a verb, not a noun.

Play is the work of a child, and it is also the work of an artist.

When nothing is fun anymore you may be focused on results. Try to make the worst, ugliest, crumbiest, most obnoxious, or just plain bad art. It is surprisingly a lot of fun.

4 - Make Gifts

One of the easiest ways to turn something you love into something you hate is to make it your job.

Be sure that there is at least a tiny part of you that is off-limits to the marketplace. Keep some piece of you to yourself.

A free creative life is not about living within your means, but below them.

Ignore the numbers: money, visits, likes, follows, favorites, shares, reblogs, retweets, etc... When you pay no mind to quantitative measurements for a bit, you can get back to qualitative measurements.

When you feel as though you have lost or are losing, your gift, skills, abilities, or art, the quickest way to recover is to step outside of the marketplace and make gifts. If you are bummed out and/or hating your work pick someone special in your life and make something for them. Identify these people, what you can give or create for them, and keep making gifts.

5 - The Ordinary + Extra Attention = The Extraordinary

It is true today as it ever was that he who seeks beauty will find it. Really great artists are able to find magic in the mundane.

You do not need to live an extraordinary life to create extraordinary work.

Slow down. When people look slowly they make discoveries.

Drawing and writing can be a great practice of presence. Use these tactics to experience a place, moment, or thing more deeply.

Photography is an immediate reaction, drawing is a meditation.

Pay attention to, that is to say, become more deeply aware of what you are letting in. That is what your life is made of

Reread your diary entries, scroll through your camera feed, watch videos you've filmed, listen to audio that you have recorded. Keep writing in your diary, continue taking photos and videos, always be on the lookout to what you can record next.

6 - Slay The Art Monsters

All types of people (good, mediocre, bad) may make all types of art (good, mediocre, bad)

Art is meant to make the lives of the creator and the experience better. If the art you are producing is making life for someone (including yourself) more difficult, do something else. Walk away and find something you can do that will make yourself and ultimately those around you feel more alive.

7 - You Are Allowed To Change Your Mind

Uncertainty is what art thrives on. Take a chance and go "off-brand".

Realize this: you may not know anything.

The Dunning-Kruger prayer:

"Let me be smart enough

to know how dumb I am

and give me the courage

to carry on anyway."

Good opportunities to do some thinking and to go "off-brand" is in your bliss station, your studio, a journal, a private chat room, with loved ones (not online).

Interacting with others who don't share your perspectives forces us to rethink our ideas, strengthen our ideas, or trade our ideas for better ones.

Talk to people who are like-hearted (passionate to a similar degree) not always like-minded (agreeable to your passions).

Visit the past when everyone is so caught up in the next newest thing: read old books, explore out-dated technology, watch forgotten films.

If you can not come up with your own idea, identify a popular idea that you despise and would like to destroy, or find an old idea that everyone has forgotten and resurrect it. You don't have to go that far back either, our human memories are very short-lived.

8 - When In Doubt, Tidy Up

New ideas are formed by interesting juxtapositions, and interesting juxtapositions happen when things are out of place.

You're often most creative when you're the least productive.

Your station and its condition (its state of readiness) is an extension of your nervous system.

Having your studio organized does not mean it needs to look organized.

When in doubt, tidy up. This is considered productive procrastination or avoiding work by doing work. You may get unstuck or solve a new problem in your head or come across something in the mess that leads to new work.

As you tidy, look for secret messages from the universe. Don't judge the results of the tidying or the messages.

Naps tidy the brain (less than or equal to 20 minutes). Try a "coffee nap" - drink a cup of coffee or tea, lie down for approximately 15 minutes, then get back up to work when the caffeine has kicked in.

Leave things better than you fond them in this world. More repair is less despair.

We need fewer vandals and more clean up crews. We need art that tidies, art that mends, art that repairs.

9 - Demons Hate Fresh Air

To exercise is to exorcise.

Almost every morning take a walk, this is where some ideas are born and projects are edited.

Daily depression can be solved by walking. Walking is a way to find possibility in your life when there doesn't seem to be any left

10 - Plant Your Garden

The beauty of spring is only because of what things had to go through during the winter. The hardest winters yield the most glorious springs.

Part of the work that you do or are doing is to know which "season" you're in along the process and to act according. Learn to be patient in the off-seasons.

Imitate the trees. Watch how they effortlessly exist. Observe how they shed the old to make room for the new. Learn to be still and present. Surrender to losses in order to allow growth in recovery and remember nothing stays the same for long.

It is not about early and rapid success, it is about spending life in obscurity, continually creating, and living with a present sense of being.

This, too, shall pass.

Worry less about getting things done. Learn more about things worth doing. Worry less about being a great artist. Learn more about becoming a good human being who makes art. Worry less about making a mark. Learn more about leaving things better than you found them.


If you like what you have read here share it with a friend! You will also love the blog I wrote on Austin Kleon's book "Steal Like An Artist", or on his book "Show Your Work!" here.

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Jace Anderson

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