Book:  Keep Going

Author:  Austin Kleon

Purchase:  PrinteBook

Citation:  Kleon, A. (2019). Keep going : 10 ways to stay creative in good times and bad. New York: Workman.

Three Big Takeaways:

  • No matter how successful you get, no matter what level of achievement you reach, you will never really "arrive." Other than death, there is no finish line or retirement for the creative person. The truly prolific artists have a daily practice - a repeatable way of working that insulates them from success, failure, and the chaos of the outside world. They all have identified what they want to spend their time on, and they work at it every day, no matter what. Whether their latest thing is universally rejected, ignored, or acclaimed, they know they'll still get up tomorrow and do their work. (pg. 9)

  • I keep a daily diary for many reasons, but the main one is that it helps me pay attention to my life. By sitting down every morning and writing about my life, I pay attention to it, and over time, I have a record of what I've paid attention to. I've found that rereading your diary doubles the power of the diary because I'm often able to discover my own patterns and know myself better. When you have a system for going back through your work, you can better see the bigger picture of what you've been up to, and what you should do next. (pg. 115)

  • Sleep is an excellent tool for tidying up your brain. When you sleep, your body literally flushes out the junk in your head. The fluid in your brain starts flowing more rapidly when you sleep, clearing out the toxins and bad proteins that build up in your brain cells. Naps are the secret weapon of many artists. I consider naps to be another form of magical tidying that seems unproductive but often leads to new ideas. I especially like the "caffeine nap" - drink a cup of coffee, lie down for 15 minutes, and get back to work when the caffeine has kicked in. (pg. 159)

Other Key Ideas:

  • Any man can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the burden of those two awful eternities, yesterday and tomorrow, that we break down. It is not the experience of today that drives men mad. It is remorse or bitterness for something which happened yesterday or the dread of what tomorrow may bring. Let us therefore do our best to live but one day at a time. (pg. 11)

  • Lists bring order to the chaotic universe. Whenever I need to figure out my life, I make my list. A list gets all your ideas out of your head and clears the mental space so you're actually able to do something about them. When I'm overwhelmed, I fall back on the old-fashioned to-do list. I make a big list of everything that needs to get done, I pick the most pressing thing to do, and I do it. Then I cross it off the list and pick anything to do. Repeat. When there's something I want to do in the future but don't have time right now, I add it to what productivity expert David Allen calls a "Someday/Maybe" list. Writer Steven Johnson does this in a single document he calls a "spark file" - every time he has an idea he adds it to the file, and then he revisits the list every couple months. (pg. 23)

  • There's almost nothing in the news that any of us need to read in the first hour of the day. When you reach for your phone or your laptop upon waking, you're immediately inviting anxiety and chaos into your life. You're also bidding adieu to some of the most potentially fertile moments in the life of a creative person. Many artists have discovered that they work best upon waking, when their mind is fresh, and they're still in a dream-state. (pg. 45)

  • You don't need to be on a plane to practice airplane mode: Pop in some cheap earplugs and switch your phone to airplane mode, and you can transform any mundane stretch of captive time into an opportunity to reconnect with yourself and your work. Airplane mod is not just a setting on your phone: It can be a whole way of life. (pg. 55)

  • Social media has created a human phenomenon called FOMO: the Fear of Missing Out. It's the sense, scrolling through your feeds, that everybody out there is having a much better time than you are. The only antidote is JOMO: the Joy of Missing Out. There can be, and should be, a blissful serene enjoyment in knowing, and celebrating, that there are some folks out there having the time of their life at something that you might have loved too, but are simply skipping. (pg. 61)

  • The list of famous artists, poets, and scientists who took strolls, hikes, and rambles around the city and countryside is practically endless. The people who want to control us through fear and misinformation - the corporations, marketers, politicians - want us to be plugged into our phones or watching TV, because then they can sell us their vision of the world. If we do not get outside, if we do not take a walk out in the fresh air, we do not see our everyday world for what it really is, and we have no vision of our own with which to combat disinformation. Art requires our full senses. Its job is to awaken us to our senses. Our screens, on the other hand, have made us lose our senses and our sense. Their overall effect has been a kind of spiritual numbing. When we're glued to our screens, the world looks unreal. Terrible. Not worth saving or even spending time with. Everyone on earth seems like a troll or a maniac or worse. (pg. 173)

Copyright © 2019 by Dr. Jared Smith LLC.  Specializing in Leadership, Education, and Personal Growth.