When afloat in dark places, frozen in inertia, mind running 100mph, going around in circles, remember: you can find your way again. Have patience. You know what you want to do and so you will do it. Simple really. Give less fucks about unworthy things and remember to stay on the path, even if you can’t always see where it is leading. Also remember that validation is for parking.
I Love my books. I talk about them a lot, pretty much every day, to my friends. “I read this book, you would love it…” That kind of thing. Fiction as well as non-fiction. But this post is about a small stack of books that I’ve come across in the past 2-3 years, that have made a difference to my life, particularly creatively. Are they self help books? Yes, I guess they would land in this category. But they all deliver in a big way, and if you’re like me, and you want to learn, you want to improve, you have something you want to do, want to create, something that will give your life purpose maybe even, these books are well worth your time and energy.
So, to put them all in one place and for what it’s worth, here’s my little couldn’t-have-done-it-without selection:
Sam Bennett is the cool aunt you wish you had. The one who knows, who has the answers, who can help you get unstuck, and give you that much needed kick up the bum. She knows what she’s talking about and she’ll let you in on all her methods and ways to become the creative person you want to be, in her own amusing and highly engaging way.
I got a lot from this book. It worked on so many different levels for me, both for my writing and my art making. It made me a doer. And it made me less afraid to be an artist and to call myself an artist. You know? And just get on with creating. I gave my own copy away recently to a friend who always wanted to be a textile designer. I’ll buy another copy soon and probably end up giving that one away too.
Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird is essentially a guide to life, and though often times recommended for writers, her wisdom applies to anyone wanting to make anything. She writes with a beautiful honesty and sense of humour, about the creative process, about moving forwards, and about the rewards that comes from sticking with it. A book to savour, it’s captivating and insightful and true.
It helped me find my way into my writing and helped me to gain momentum. I would love to meet Anne Lamott one day, she’s one amazing lady.
Click here to read an excellent review (via Brain Pickings).
A friend recommended this book to me when I bumped into her and told her I was trying to write a book. I bought it online, it arrived, and immediately the pink cover and even the title put me off. One of those books, I thought. Fluffy self help stuff. I flicked through the first pages. Put it on the shelf. And there it sat for a while until I noticed it again one day, thankfully with a less judgemental mindset.
Elizabeth Gilbert is so right in everything she says. She talks about fear and courage, ideas and the muse, and that Big Magic that comes with trusting the universe while creating something. I love this book.
Watch her hugely inspiring Ted Talk here.
I talk about this guy a lot. I send links of his articles to friends and random people. The first blog post I wrote was about James Altucher and how he is more or less responsible for all the good shit that’s happened to me in the past year. Whenever I’m feeling a bit stuck, I go back to his articles and his Reinvent Yourself book.
Read this article and you’ll see what I mean.
A recurring theme in James Altucher’s writings is ideas. Write 10 ideas a day and you’ll be an ideas machine. Try it. It’s fun.
I wrote down 10 ideas of how I can meet James Altucher. Maybe one day I will.
Chances are you’ve heard of Tony Robbins. You might have watched that really intense I Am Not Your Guru thing on Netflix and if you haven’t, maybe don’t. Instead, have a little sit down with this very short book. Take some notes.
My favourite quote in the book: You can should all over yourself.
Tony Robbins talks about deciding what’s most important to you. Decide what you want, commit to it, and then take massive action, every day, to make it happen. Put simply, you can become who you want to become, by focussing on where you want to go, having purpose in everything you do, and believing that you can.
This little book put everything into perspective for me. What do I want? Who do I want to be? Why do I want to be that person? What are my goals in life? After sitting down and figuring it out, and narrowing the focus, it all makes more sense.
I know I can. And now I do.
The sequel to the also excellent Steal Like An Artist, this is a great prompt to get yourself and your work out there, how to do it, and to keep doing. It’s full of invaluable advice for the artist who is ready, whatever your art might be.
Austin Kleon talks about taking chances, experimenting, and following your whims. Learn in front of others. Talk about what you love. Think process, not product. Take people behind the scenes. Share consistently. Tell stories. Engage and connect with your people. It’s great stuff.
Going from the amateur mindset and what Steven Pressfield calls our shadow life (where we pursue callings that take us nowhere and permit ourselves to be controlled by compulsions that we cannot understand), to the mindset of a professional:
1. The professional shows up every day
2. The professional stays on the job all day
3. The professional is committed over the long haul
4. For the professional, the stakes are high and real
5. The professional is patient
6. The professional seeks order
7. The professional demystifies
8. The professional acts in the face of fear
9. The professional accepts no excuses
10. The professional plays it as it lays
11. The professional is prepared
12. The professional does not show off
13. The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique
14. The professional does not hesitate to ask for help
15. The professional does not take failure or success personally
16. The professional does not identify with his or her instrument
17. The professional endures adversity
18. The professional self-validates
19. The professional reinvents herself
20. The professional is recognized by other professionals
It’s a work in progress but, heck man, I’m doing it!
I was in the park the other day, shoes off, bare feet in the grass, sitting under 100 year old trees. Earthing, as my Scottish friend Hannah would say. I wrote my first blog post ever in the park, the one you’re reading now (modified for authenticity).
I’d been not blogging, not starting, putting it off for ages. But lately everything I read, the people I come across, all my ideas – it all seems to point in the same direction. Sitting there in the park I checked my Instagram, while continuing to not blog, and what’s the first face that pops up on my feed? James Altucher’s face (via @afterchurch_art). You don’t need to be a prophet to read the signs. And the wind whistled through the 100 year old trees, it said, ‘just fucking write a post. See what happens. Then write another post. And another.’
An idea I had earlier this week was to dedicate an entire blog to James Altucher. This is what I wrote in my notebook:
One of my goals in life is to meet James Altucher in New York City, buy him a cup of coffee, and hang for a while.
10 ways I can make this happen:
- Dedicate entire blog to James Altucher. Eventually he will notice.
- Write a short story about meeting him, set in an alternative universe. James Altucher likes short stories.
- Post Reinvent Yourself stuff on Instagram and tag the shit out of it.
- Blog about reading his post a year ago. Link to page.
- Make short comic strips featuring James Altucher. Make funny.
I got to 6 and got distracted. Then I accidentally swept my notebook into the bath. It’s still damp but intact. Anyway, that’s probably enough brilliant ideas for now. Time to put one or two of them into action.