One of my favorite pastimes is visiting the Little Free Libraries that dot my neighborhood. The offerings can be random …
… but sometimes I find a real treasure, like this gem by Austin Kleon.
He reveals the “10 things nobody told you about being creative” right on the back cover: Use your hands. Be nice. Creativity is subtraction.
But — like most creative pursuits — the good stuff lies in the journey. And for me the journey began in earnest when I subscribed to his weekly newsletter.
His lists each week are marvelous, covering so vast an array of recommended reading and creative commentary/inspiration that I’ve concluded “Austin Kleon” is actually a consortium of 27 super-smart, over-caffeinated writers. And at least one ink-stained illustrator.
Anyway. I’m a huge fan of his newspaper blackouts — especially this dark and hilarious take on asteroids.
But the feature I’ve most enjoyed has been the peeks into his journals and notebooks.
Who would think of recording their daily Wordle guesses? Austin Kleon, of course, who explains why so beautifully:
Why would I go to the trouble of recording these in my diary?
I used to feel like a good diary was one in which you wrote down Important Things That Happened To You, but the more I write mine, the more I think it’s the tiny, almost insignificant details, accurately rendered, that bring you back to where you were.
As inspiring as these diary peeks were, however, for months I remained a spectator to his charming and quirky illustrations. But then something changed with his post on intentionally spiraling out.
For some reason I felt compelled to revisit that post again and again, before finally trying the technique for myself in May. [Caveat: DON’T JUDGE; I’m a writer, not an artist.]
I worked fast, jotting down worries as they came to mind. It surprised me how quickly the page filled; no wonder I’d been feeling stressed!
And then something even more interesting struck me: I had zero control over most of my top worries. Some I could maybe influence — like reducing energy use to help combat climate change. But Ukraine, politics, and COVID? Zero control.
Realizing this has encouraged me to double down on the things I can control in my life over the past few months — to create at least an illusion of order in this messy, scary world.
I doubt I would have gleaned so many insights from my usual longhand narratives.
Since then I’ve made a regular point of adding little sketches and visual mind-maps to my journals.
Not only has this made journaling much more enjoyable, it has also challenged me to visualize and organize information in new ways. And all because I simply copied someone else’s idea.
Such is the power of stealing like (and from) an artist.
With immense thanks to Austin Kleon.