A Practical Guide for Living a Successful, Balanced, Creative Life
My new book, How to Be an Artist Without Losing Your Mind, Your Shirt, or Your Creative Compass: A Practical Guide, is published by W.W.Norton (2016).
Here are the principles of the book:
Creative people in our time suffer a lot. In fact, the first thing we think of when we say the word artist—the first culturally ingrained thing that pops into our head—is “starving artist” or “struggling artist.” And that association harms us. We also pit our personal experience of artistic “success” against the multi-millionaire, star-status of the very few, as if our daily, working artist efforts don’t matter unless we achieve those outrageous heights.
And we have to banish all of that in order to really work our creative gifts. The good news—the really terrific news—is that we can learn to be a healthy artist. Being a healthy working creative person is not a gift that falls upon us from heaven. It is not about being “discovered.” It’s about doing our work. It’s about showing up day after day and year after year to create something that no one else has ever created, and no one else could.
And in order to do that, we must learn the skills that create balance in our artistic lives: day job, time, money, relationships, motivation, work ethics, inspiration—all of the practical stuff that we need to support ourselves for a lifetime of creating. That’s what this book is about.
We need solid, steady supports that will help us do our art, day by day, while we’re fielding everything else that an adult life requires of us. Doing everything we need to do all at once takes skill. It takes practice. It takes learning the tools of how to hold more than one thing at a time in our hands. And we need a real plan to make that work. That’s what How to Be an Artist Without Losing Your Mind, Your Shirt, or Your Creative Compass is about. It gives us the skills we need to build a creative life—one that’s meaningful and happy, and one that lets us live well while we’re making art.
Art is unlike anything else we do in our linear world. It requires exploration. It requires time. It requires mixing things up, making mistakes (which often turn out to be terrific discoveries), and humbly showing up, day after day, for our creative voices. It requires an ethic of listening, quieting the instant insistence of our external world, and guiding ourselves into a space of discovery and invention.
What we learn, in How to Be an Artist…, is how to apply the skills that make the artist’s life work. And, as we grow in the strength of our creative life skills, we prepare ourselves for a lifetime of fulfilling expression, a lifetime of giving the gifts we were always meant to give.