For every area of my life where I’ve needed to better myself, there’s a self-improvement book for it on my shelf. Boundaries? I got a book for that. Fear and anxiety? BOOKS for that. At one point, I had to chill out because it started to feel like I was buying self-improvement books to avoid actually improving my life. But the other week, as I was scanning the shelves at a bookstore, my eyes gravitated to this vibrant, blue cover — Keep Going. Exactly what I needed to see.
As of lately, your girl has been in a creative slump: sometimes when I’m not sure what to create, I’ll either pout to myself, or if I want to switch it up, I’ll pout to the homies. Beyond the encouraging title, I’ve been a fan of Austin Kleon for years so I had to pick up this book. Author of Steal Like An Artist and Show Your Work, Kleon gives practical advice about the creative process and how we can find inspiration anywhere. After reading this book, I was given some much needed encouragement. Here are a few takeaways that resonated with me:
JOMO (JOY OF MISSING OUT).
“Saying ‘no’ to the world can be really hard, but sometimes it’s the only way to say ‘yes’ to your art and your sanity.” - Austin Kleon
Aware of the effects of social media and the busyness of routine, Kleon emphasizes the importance of having a “bliss station,” which is a space (or time) that you set aside for yourself to disconnect from the world, whether it be your room, garage, a park, etc. We are in a time where almost everyone loves to share their highlights on social media, so it is very easy to experience FOMO (fear of missing out), but Kleon wants us to shift that perspective. Instead of paying attention to what you’re “missing out” on, focus on the joy of missing out. Think about what you could discover in solitude, or even the peace that you’ll gain by not accepting every invitation that comes your way.
If you find inspiration during this time alone, great. But even if you don’t, be proud of the fact that you set time aside for yourself. In Strip The Distractions, I talked about setting healthy boundaries and how social media often depletes me of peace. I’ve been getting into the practice of using airplane mode, whether I’m in need of solitude or if I am working on a project. A friend of mine gave me great advice when I told her about my struggle to focus: put your phone on airplane mode, set a timer, keep only one tab open, and focus my attention only on that task. If you find that your phone is a distraction, it’s worth giving a try. My anxiety was through thee roof the first time I tried this - I kept wondering if someone was trying to reach me, or if someone liked my IG picture.
(Spoiler alert: my project was completed within the time frame and no one hit me up)
GO EASY ON YOURSELF.
“Like a tree, creative work has seasons. Part of the work is to know which season you’re in, and act accordingly. In Winter, ‘the tree looks dead, but we know it is beginning a very deep process, out of which will come Spring and Summer.” - Austin Kleon
I’m sure many of y’all have seen at least one of your followers talk about “moving in silence,” while announcing everything that they do. It goes back to society’s notion that we need to be productive at absolutely ALL times, and while we’re at it, we have to let people know. These constant updates can lead us to believe that we’re not on track, as if there’s a universal timeline we’re supposed to follow. It may not always feel like it, but creative droughts aren’t completely barren. In those moments, use that time to rest, switch up your routine or have a change of scenery. The difference it could make once we discover that we are more like trees than machines.
If you’re working on a project that feels like it’s taking forever, write down your progress each day. I would beat myself up because I’d go through an entire day and not be able to name one thing that I accomplished. I started to get into the habit writing down all that I’ve done - big or small - and be proud of myself for taking little steps towards my goals. Go easy on yourself.
QUALITATIVE OVER QUANTITATIVE.
“When you ignore quantitative measurements for a bit, you can get back to qualitative measurements. Is it good? Really good? Do you like it?” - Austin Kleon
I recently attended a networking event in NYC for female entrepreneurs. At one point, a woman expressed the anxiety that she struggled with in being a blogger: she wanted to reach as many people as possible and she’d often stress herself out, trying to think up content that would reach a wide demographic. Over time, she realized that it wasn’t her job to reach everybody, and this lesson can apply to all of us. There is someone out there who needs to hear your story and perspective, and getting caught up in analytics can cause you to lose sight of that. Create for you, and those who need to find you will find you.
There are many valuable points that he makes throughout the book but of course, I can’t give it all away. Whether you learn something new or you just need a reminder, I highly recommend Austin Kleon’s books if you are looking to stir up your creativity and want ideas on how to showcase your work. How do you get out of your creative slumps, or in other words, keep going?