I recently read two books about making art (below lie affiliate links which cost you nothing and make me….almost nothing):
- Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles & Ted Orland
- The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield* (see note below)
I’ve owned Art & Fear for years, started to read it forever ago (before I was ready, if I’m being honest) and picked it back up at the end of 2018 and highlighted the hell out of it. There were many, many quotable quotes in the book, but the first one that made me sigh in recognition of myself was this one:
“To all viewers but yourself, what matters is the product: the finished artwork. To you, and you alone, what matters is the process: the experience of shaping that artwork. The viewers’ concerns are not your concerns.”
And then a few sentences later he says:
“Your job is to learn to work on your work.”
Reading books about creativity is my #1 way of getting out of actually being creative. I use it to keep me from working on my work. Because reading is easy, and sitting down in front of a blank piece of paper is hard. I’m not being facetious. It literally is hard.
“Writing is easy. You only need to stare at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” – Gene Fowler
A little dramatic, but he’s not wrong.
But what I notice is all the creativity books hold roughly the same message: You have to do the work. You’re the only one who can do your work. You can’t skip the work. You can’t skip the process. You won’t learn unless you do. Yes, it’s hard. Not everything will be amazing. There’s beauty in the process.
So how many more creativity books will I read or feel like I need to read before I realize they’re all telling me variations of the same thing?
Not sure, but I still have Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic on my list, and I just discovered Playing Big by Tara Mohr and hey, Austin Kleon has a new book out, so I think it’ll be a while?
*The War of Art? I was not a fan. I felt a little camaraderie with the author’s descriptions of procrastination and resistance, but he started to lose me when he said ADD and social anxiety disorders are fake and have been fabricated by marketing departments to take advantage of people’s “resistances.” I’m not saying that people with attention deficit disorders don’t deal with a great deal of resistance, but as a mom of a child with ADHD (and a mom who had to help that child buckle down and work on her science fair project today), I am just not on board with this line of thinking.
Otherwise, nothing in the book was groundbreaking, and when he started talking about muses and angels, I completely checked out.