I’ve been a fan of Austin Kleon’s work for several years now. Steal Like an Artist had a huge impact on me as an educator and I frequently quote it in my conference presentations. Show Your Work helped me to better understand the importance of sharing what I’m doing (like right here on this blog). Keep Going is the third book in the trilogy and I was so excited to get it in the mail. Like the title of the book suggests, this book is about how to keep going, how to stay creative, even when things are rough, even when you don’t feel like it. And like Kleon’s other two books, there’s so much to dig into. These tiny books are fast reads and easy to keep in your bag. I don’t often go back and reread books, but I know I’ll be coming back to this one again and again.
Disclaimer: Review copy of book received for free. Opinions are my own. Post contains affiliate links.)
Here are some of my favorite takeaways:
Ways to Beat the Overwhelm
Maybe it’s the anxiety of being a millennial, or our current state of affairs, or a midlife crisis (what age do those start at exactly?), but the last few years I’ve been feeling overwhelmed a lot. These are a few lessons from this book that will help:
- Make lists – This is something I’ve done naturally for awhile. I thought I was just a weird over-obsessive planner who likes to make lists for everything. But it’s not just me. List making can help you to get everything out of your head. To find what your priority should be. To get inspiration when you don’t know what’s next.
- Create a daily routine – I like having habits. Every morning before work is the same for me. I get up earlier than I need to so that I have time to stretch, time to write. Routines help to make things automatic. They take out decision fatigue because you already know what to do next. And sometimes just having to make one less decision in a day can be exactly what you need.
- Just say no – So many educators need to learn (or relearn) the art of saying “no” to things. There’s so many constant demands on our attention and time, and they can often be good things. But we all only have twenty-four hours in a day, and how we prioritize our time will affect everything in life. Sometimes we have to miss out. And that’s okay.
- Go for a walk – I love the quote Kleon cited from Ingmar Berman -”The demons hate fresh air”. There is something about getting out and going for a walk that helps you to clear your head. Put your ideas in focus. I’ve started trying to take a walk most days during lunch now and it helps a lot.
How to find ideas and inspiration
Even when you get past feeling constantly overwhelmed, it can be hard to find ideas to get inspired. What’s the next program you want to develop? What’s the next project you want to make? Sometimes it feels exhausting just trying to think of something new and original. As an artist, this is certainly not a feeling that’s unknown to Kleon. But he has some ideas for combatting it:
- Build a bliss station – This may be one of my favorite concepts in the whole book. The original concept comes from Joseph Campbell, and to paraphrase, it’s the idea of having a place or a time where you disconnect from the outside world and connect with yourself. I love this idea of creating a little corner for ourselves with images, words, or objects that inspire us. And I think we could maybe carry over the concept into our schools – what about creating a phone free zone in the library and decorating it with plants or beautiful art or painting the wall soothing colors?
- Visit the past – As a librarian, this one clearly appeals to me. Don’t worry about knowing everything about the newest and latest trends. Study the old stuff. There is great wisdom in old books just waiting for us to discover it. For me, this makes me want to go back and read books about Reggio-Emilia, Montessori and Constructivism.
I also reviewed Kleon’s first two books in this trilogy: Show Your Work and Steal Like an Artist. And since Kleon says, “It’s not the book that you start with, it’s the book that book leads you to.” (Steal Like an Artist), here are some books that I plan on reading after finishing Keep Going:
- The Journal of Henry David Thoreau (also just bought a used copy of Walden I plan on rereading)
- The Real World of Technology by Ursula Franklin
- Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman (I first read this for a philosophy course during my undergrad in the early 2000s. I’m curious to see how it looks now that technology has changed so much)
- The Wander Society by Keri Smith
- Daily Rituals by Mason Currey
Check out Austin Kleon’s Keep Going
There’s so much more in this book that I loved. I’m eager now to go back and re-read through the entire trilogy. With Kleon’s writing, I always learn something new (or find something reaffirmed) every time I read through. Whether or not you consider yourself a creative person, you can still benefit immensely from this book. So what are you waiting for? Go out and get a copy; I think you’ll like it.