Rainy Day Reading... for Artists and Creatives
The autumn season, where I live, means lots of rainy weather. And I'm not complaining! I love a cool, rainy day- especially after a long, dry summer that's roasted all the grass to a crunchy golden-brown. A good, long, misty rainstorm brings life back into the parched soil, resuscitates the moss & ferns, and gives me an excuse to spend the day snuggled beneath a blanket with a good book.
So, in celebration of the approaching cozy season, I thought I might share with you some of the good artsy books I've read lately. Now, these aren't the newest bestsellers, and you may have read them all already. And if so, then awesome! I'd love to hear what you thought of them! And if you haven't read them, maybe you'll pick them up when you see them at the library or used bookstore.
If you've read, or seen the movie, or just couldn't escape all the buzz around the book, Eat Pray, Love, then you may have heard of Elizabeth Gilbert. I'll be honest, I've never read Eat. Pray, Love. I've never seen the film. But as I was working in a library when it became a bestseller, I couldn't escape a passing awareness of Elizabeth Gilbert. So when I saw she'd written a nonfiction book, I was intrigued.
Big Magic is a exploration and explanation of Gilbert's relationship with her craft. It's always interesting to hear creative people talk about their process. What I found unique about Big Magic was the way in which Gilbert describes her relationship with inspiration as a near-mystical one. I always maintain that our relationship with our Muse are two-way exchanges, and it seems Gilbert would agree. She describes ideas as agents in the world, searching for the right person to bring them to life. She insists that our creative lives are integral parts of us to be nurtured- no matter our day job. She calls us to be honest about our priorities, our fears, and what are requirements of authentic living and true happiness really are.
The world can be tough on creatives, and Big Magic offers realistic and reassuring perspective on how we can be artists in an environment of negative rhetoric and pessimistic naysayers- whether we've landed the huge book/movie deal or not.
I don't think of myself as a jealous person, but when we're putting ourselves out there as creative people in a competitive world, well... we all become acquainted with those pangs of envy. In Life Without Envy: Ego Management for Creative People, author Camille DeAngelis shares her own struggles with envy as an aspiring author... and as a successful one, too. Her honest accounts are real and relateable to anyone who's ever felt left-behind, overlooked, or underappreciated for their work. DeAngelis gives real-talk and helpful tips for lifting ourselves out of self-pity, managing our feelings of jealously, and transforming our experiences of envy into positive motivation.
Self-reflective and full of tough love, Life Without Envy acknowledges the hurdle that jealousy presents in our lives as artists, and offers practical tips for overcoming it.
Amanda Palmer has always been a divisive character, but however you feel about her, we all have to admit, the woman has moxie. From performing ukulele in the nude, to leaving a record label in favor of crowdfunding, the girl has made some bold decisions. In The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help, Palmer asks her readers to get honest with our own insecurities about asking for the things we need. Whether it's asking to participate, asking for help, or -god forbid- asking for money, our cultural mores make simply asking a complicated and nuanced minefield. Society has unspoken rules that hinder our abilities to ask and trust others, with shame, fear, and embarrassment. Heavy stuff, yes.
Part memoir, part philosophical essay, The Art of Asking elaborates on the decisions in Palmer's career that have drawn success, garnered criticism, and shaped her approach to work and life. Namely, she muses on the many ways we ask -and avoid asking- others for the things we need to make magic happen. Asking is inherently a human transaction, and is wrought with the messiness that humans bring to everything we do.
Based on her wildly popular TED Talk, The Art of Asking is an insightful read that can empower us to stop being sorry and muster our courage to ask for the things we want. Because you never know unless you ask.
Switching it up a bit, this last book is one that appeals to my inner science nerd. Tim Harford is not a novelist, or a musician, or a painter or an actor. He's an economist. In Messy: the Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives, Harford dives into the research that suggests that those of us who have messy desks may be, in fact, more creative, insightful, and even successful. (And if that doesn't make you feel better about the state of your office or studio, then I don't know what will).
Through interviews, anecdotes, and highlights of scientific research Harford illuminates the evidence that suggests randomness, disorganization, improvisation, and overall messiness can force us to be more thoughtful, more creative, and generally more successful.
From the book: "[O]ften we are so seduced by the blandishments of tidiness that we fail to appreciate the virtues of the messy - the untidy, unquantified, uncoordinated, improvised, imperfect, incoherent, crude, cluttered, random, ambiguous, vague, difficult, diverse or even dirty." Those of us who "wing-it" can respond better to change than those who have rehearsed. Kids who climb trees, build forts, and play with dangerous tools may be less likely to get hurt. Surprises abound!
When schools and workplaces admonish us for daydreaming, or having "too many interests," begin unable to focus, or generally having a messy, ambiguous or unconventional style, creative people can start feeling like we'll never adopt the practices that will make us "successful." Hardford offers reassurance that the very things we may classify as bad habits, or shortcomings, could really be the keys to our creative success.
These are just a few of the books I've read recently. As I find things that spark my creative curiosity, or inspire me to take on the world with my paintbrush, I might just share them here. In the meantime, I would LOVE to hear any recommendations you may have. What have you read recently that has empowered you in your creative life?