Saturday, June 17, 2017

Off the Shelf:
Real Artists Don't Starve

I admit it: the book I want to talk about today is a title published just this month. Deviating from my original intent for this column—returning to my bookshelves to actually read those books purchased with good intentions, months ago—after this week's discussion here at A Family Tapestry, I couldn't help but mention this new release.

The author, Jeff Goins—who by now is billed as a "creativity expert"—has in his several previous books touched at least tangentially on the writing life. Though he co-opts the term "artist" for this latest release, Real Artists Don't Starve, the subject he covers largely applies to writers as much as any other creative.

The gist of the book is that choosing the path of the creative—writer, artist, actor, dancer, musician—does not doom one to a life of financial insecurity. He offers a sequence of five strategies for allowing that creative spark to thrive, coupling that with not only historical examples but current-day case studies. And yet, he encases the whole plan within the caveat: working at your craft will be more likely to see success if the approach is slow and steady.

Many of the tidbits of advice are infused with earthy practicality. "You become an artist because you decide that's what you're going to be," he flatly states, "and then you do the work."

Going back, time and again, to that slow and steady theme, he observes, "Most significant change begins with a simple step, not a giant leap."

And again, "Doing something so small and gradual that it almost looks like you're doing nothing—often leads to much more sustainable success" than the flamboyant leap of faith into the realm of your creative passion.

These are not beaches once reached that require the boats to be burned behind you. In Goins' book, this is more like sidling to the edge of the pool and nonchalantly dipping your big toe in, just to check out the water before making any further moves.

In that sustainable one-step-at-a-time approach, it calls to mind one aspect we've been discussing this week: persistence. Only in Goins' book, that persistence can take a shape so small, it shrinks from the mammoth and impossible, and morphs into the infinitesimally do-able. Something so minute that, with modest commitment coupled with the passion to see it happen, we can do this.

There's much more to Goins' plan, of course. That's just the initial realization—the encouraging door opened to bid you come further inside. Once he gets deep within his five step analysis, you begin to realize this writing life does require effort—perhaps agonizing effort. You know an honest assessment must always include a full disclosure, and Goins delivers:
Art is always found on the fringes, at the edge of our discomfort where true change occurs.

This, of course, is true of all learning. When we move from what we confidently know to that realm of skills we haven't yet accomplished, we enter a state of disequilibrium. An unfamiliar point requires us to stretch, if we wish to succeed at a new task.

Of course, while we see ourselves as those concerned with family history, the vehicle we use to transport our ideas and stories is none other than the skill of writing. And that skill can always use improvement, which is why I like to keep an eye on books with solid advice on how to better craft this blogging work.


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