Keep Going

Author: Austin Kleon

Published: 2019

Milly Read: July 2022

🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. Focus on your daily routine because that is what matters

  2. Disconnect from the world to connect with yourself

  3. The first step toward transforming your life into an art is to start paying more attention to it

🎨 Impressions

As I expected, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Austin Kleon writes in an incredible way, it is so easy to read and so many points resonate. It includes amazing graphics and there are so many quotes that I have never heard before.

I would describe the book as reassuring. The advice given is so easy to implement but is also solid information for transforming your mindset and approach to your work.

I particularly love the final chapter which states creativity has seasons. The beauty produced in spring was only because of what it went through during the winter. We are just like the seasons and cannot expect to be fully creative and functioning all year round. Time off is necessary.

🔎 Who Should Read This?

  • The target audience is for those who work in creative jobs and helps you to continue pushing through when you are in a creative slump. However, I do think it useful to anybody who is struggling to keep going and needs botharound this, thus maximising my productivity.

  • Kleon highlights that drawing is a great exercise for seeing the world and allows us to truly experience a place or moment deeply. Due to this, I bought a drawing book and now, when I go on holiday, I draw something to really capture all its beauty.

  • In this book, naps are recommended and are a way to tidy up your brain if you’re feeling unproductive. I nap all the time so it truly resonated with me. I feel less guilty for taking naps now and I do believe having them helps me concentrate more.

☘️ How the Book Changed Me

  • It is recommended within the book to establish your own personal routine and observe your mood every day. Doing so will help you function to the best of your ability. I did this and I realised I get very tired around 2pm so I have catered my schedule to fit around this so I am able to maximise productivity. 
  • Kleon shared that drawing is a great way to be present. It’s a really good exercise for seeing and allows you to experience a place or moment more deeply. Due to this, I  bought a drawing book so now when I go on holiday, I take it with me to really focus on what I am drawing and capture all its beauty.
  • In this book, naps are recommended as they spark creativity and productivity. I always nap so nothing has changed for me there but it’s changed my mindset towards napping and I feel less guilty. I do agree though, a quick nap does leave me feeling more energised and ready to focus.

✍️ Top 4 Quotes

 

  • “The phone gives us a lot but it takes away three key elements of discovery: loneliness, uncertainty and boredom. Those have all been where creative ideas come from.”
  • “Your attention is one of the most valuable things you possess which is why everyone wants to steal it from you”
  • “We’re afraid of changing our minds because we’re afraid of the consequences of changing our minds. What will people think?”
  • Creativity has seasons – “Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long”

📒 Summary + Notes

Chapter 1: Everyday is Groundhog Day

  • Focus on your routine, this will help you make the little time that you have, count. Your routine is personal to you and what you enjoy, have a schedule and stick to it.
  • A little imprisonment in your own routine, following a clear structure is what gives you the freedom of life to enjoy the things you want to do.
  • What your daily routine consists of, doesn’t matter. What’s important is that your daily routine exists.
  • Finish each day and be done with it – no matter how bad it gets, see it through so you can get to tomorrow. A little self-forgiveness goes a long way!
  • Make lists – they help you figure out your life. Examples below:
    • Leonardo Da Vinci – wrote ‘to learn’ lists of what he wanted to learn that day
    • David Allen – wrote ‘someday/maybe’ list
    • Steven Johnson – wrote ‘spark file’ for every time he had an idea and would revisit it months later 
  • “No matter how successful you get, no matter what level of achievement you reach, you will never really ‘arrive’”. This shows it is important to enjoy the process, not the results.
  • “We have so little control over our lives. The only thing we can really control is what we spend our days on. What we work on and how hard we work on it”
  • “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives” 
  • Kleon wrote “every day is full of different obligations”. I prefer to call our ‘obligations’ opportunities as it makes your perspective towards your to-do list more positive and exciting. Life is to be enjoyed.  
  • Richmond Walker’s book referenced ‘Twenty-four hours a day’ – “it is only when we add the burden of yesterday and tomorrow that we realise, it isn’t the experience of today that drives people mad. It is the remorse or bitterness for something which happened yesterday or the dread of tomorrow. Instead, focus on living your best life, one day as a time”. I couldn’t agree more and this really resonated!

Chapter 2: Build a Bliss Station 

  • Disconnect from the world to connect with yourself – silence and solitude are crucial 
  • Creativity is about connection – you need to connect to others to be inspired but it’s also about disconnection – retracting from the world to think and practice your work of art.
  • For an hour each day, go to a quiet room and fully disconnect from the world – make it a daily appointment.
  • There is no need for us to watch the news first thing in the morning – you’re allowing anxiety and chaos into your life. This is something I swear by!
  • The point of not watching the news and relaxing into your day is to retain some inner balance so you can be strong and do work.
  • Airplane mode is amazing – replicate when you’re in the air whilst you’re on the ground
  • Learn how to say no – it can be hard but it is the only way to say ‘yes’ to your art and sanity 
  • When saying no, Kleon states “I must decline, for secret reasons” – I agreed, you do not ever owe anyone an explanation!
  • “The phone gives us a lot but it takes away three key elements of discovery: loneliness, uncertainty and boredom. Those have all been where creative ideas come from.”

Chapter 3: Forget the Noun, do the Verb

  • “Lots of people want to be the noun without doing the verb. They want the job title without the work”
  • Job titles aren’t really for you, they’re for other people. Job titles can mess you up and make you feel like you need to work in a way that benefits the title. It can restrict you. 
  • The best way to work is through lightness and detachment from the results. You need to enjoy the process.
  • You can chill sometimes too and simply just play – “musicians can jam without making a recording” – a great example!
  • “When nothing’s fun anymore, try to make the worst thing you can” –  makes it fun and laughable! 

Chapter 4: Make Gifts

  • “We used to have hobbies, now we have ‘side hustles’”.
  • If anybody shows any talent, we suggest they turn it into a profession. Sometimes if you make your hobby a profession, you fall out of love with it.
  • You can always use your profession to feed your hobby – directly or indirectly. This links to your spiritual and life vision, both serving different purposes.
  • Ignore the numbers – money is not the only measurement of your talent and success. It’s easy to become obsessed with social media metrics too which can dictate what work you want to create. The more you then start creating for others and not for your soul, that’s what will lead to unhappiness. Austin refers to this as “suckcess” – it’s success based on someone else’s terms. It is just like when a video goes viral that you put no effort into and what you put effort into, does badly. It isn’t deserved success. Jean Cocteau refers to this “Suckcess” as “the kind of success that is worse than failure”.
  • Make sure you gift your work – there is nothing as pure as making something specifically for someone. If you have a following/audience, do giveaways!

Chapter 5: The Ordinary and Extra Attention – The Extraordinary

  • You have everything you already need, you just need to open your eyes.Find magic in the mundane.
  • Too many people think you need an extraordinary life and would rather trade in your ordinary life for your problems to be fixed. Instead you need “to breathe new life into the way we look at the ordinary things around us”
  • “The first step toward transforming your life into an art is to start paying more attention to it”
  • “It’s impossible to pay proper attention to your life if you are hurting along at lightning speed” – agreed, you need to be present and awaren
  • “Drawing is another way of seeing which we don’t really do as adults. This is a really good exercise for seeing and allows you to ‘experience a place or moment more deeply’”. Drawing makes you feel and notice all the small details of beauty!
  • “Your attention is one of the most valuable things you possess which is why everyone wants to steal it from you”
  • Pay attention to what you pay attention to as this is the stuff your life and work will be made of. Keep a daily diary and you’ll notice patterns on what you pay attention to. 
  • “It’s as true today as it ever was: he who seeks beauty will find it”. Hence it is important to express gratitude!

Chapter 6: Slay the Art Monsters

  • Plenty of art was made by jerks, creeps, assholes, vampires and perverts – these are the ‘art monsters’ and we all have art monsters inside of us.
  • We’re all complicated and have personal shortcomings. If everything was better, there wouldn’t be much point in art.
  • “No one is better than the person who creates it”

Chapter 7: You are allowed to change your mind

  • “To change is to be alive” – you can change your mind on things and that is ok
  • “We’re afraid of changing our minds because we’re afraid of the consequences of changing our minds. What will people think?”
  • You start each work project  with hope. Hope is not about knowing how things will turn out – it’s moving forward with the face of uncertainty.
  • To have hope, you must acknowledge that you don’t know everything and you don’t know what’s going to happen.
  • “The world needs you at the party starting real conversations, saying, ‘I don’t know’ and being kind” – real confidence comes from not knowing and being real.
  • “Think for yourself” is impossible – to think independently of other human beings is impossible, said Alan Jacobs in his book ‘how to think’. Everything you do is a response to someone else so nothing is ever original. We’re all shaped to think certain ways. 
  • Interact and how out with people that challenge you.
  • Try your best to seek out like-hearted people with whom you connect. Like-hearted instead of like-minded so they challenge you – this is probably my fourth favourite point in the entire book!
  • Visit the past – read old books, you get to add all the years the author didn’t.

Chapter 8: When in doubt, tidy up

  • You’re most creative when you’re least productive 
  • Anthony Bourdain wrote in Kitchen Confidential – “your station and it’s condition, it’s state of readiness is an extension of your nervous system” – my fifth favourite point in the book
  • Tidying up is a form of productive procrastination – avoiding work by doing other work 
  • Sleep tidies up the brain – “naps are essential to my process. Not dreams, but that state adjacent to sleep, the mind on walking” – William Gibson
  • Naps are a form of magical tidying that seem unproductive but often leads to new ideas – AGREED. They tidy up your brain.

Creative slogans for work motivation:

  • Make your mark
  • Put a dent in the universe
  • Move fast and break things 
  • Leave things better than you found them

TIP: have a coffee, lay down for a 15 minute nap and when caffeine has kicked in, get back to work – love this, I’ve never tried or heard of doing this before!

Chapter 9: Demons hate fresh air

  • Every morning regardless of the weather, a morning walk is where ideas are born.
  • Walking is a magic cure for people who want to think e.g. Wallace Stevens composed poems on his walk back and forth. 
  • “Walking is good for physical, spiritual and mental health. No matter what time you get out of bed, go for a walk”
  • “Walking is great for battling our demons. 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”
  • “I walked myself into my best thoughts” – Soren Kierkegaard

Chapter 10: Plant your garden

  • Creativity has seasons – “the beauty produced in spring was only because of what it went through during the winter. Sometimes the harshest winters yielded the most glorious springs. The leaves became recognisable and the tree was itself again” – We often don’t observe nature, we’re too caught up in our own worlds. It’s important to embrace the hard times / challenges.
  • “Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long” – May Sarton
  • Like a tree, we have seasons. We do not need quick success but a lifetime of progress / success. There is no need to rush! 
  • “Everyday is a potential seed that we can grow into something beautiful” 
  • Fun thing to do: draw the same tree every week for a year and watch it change – I think this is a beautiful thing to do! It would definitely help us enjoy and appreciate our environment even more.