The Artisan Soul, Erwin Raphael McManus
I’ve been so busy lately I am still finishing up books I received as Christmas gifts! For anyone who knows me, you know how shocking this is as I tend to devour books. I’ve really been enjoying this latest one, The Artisan Soul. What’s great about it is it can apply to any passion, not simply the arts. I suppose I should say, it also applies to everything outside of what is “traditionally” viewed as art, since one of the major themes from the very beginning is the fact that everyone is an artist! Everyone has something they do that they love, that when they are engaging with it their creativity freely flows – yes yes yes!
The journaling prompts for each chapter in the back of the book are so helpful in synthesizing what you’ve just read and allowing you to apply it to your own personal journey. This is not one of those lame self help books, or else trust me, there is no way in hell I would be reading it. I’d like to share the latest journal, in which I was asked to write about what kind of world I will create through my work, choices, and actions – a manifesto of sorts. This is not at all polished and total stream of consciousness, but I’d like to include it: I will create a world in which everyone has the confidence to see themselves as creators. People are not afraid to express themselves creatively and stop shutting themselves off from the world due to fear or anxiety. No one will feel purposeless, and no one will feel isolated. Those who were once ignored, mistreated, or shut out will shine and show others their true worth. “Sameness” and monotony will vanish and people will be free to live as they truly are without persecution. All will have the power of fearlessness. We will not need to cling to what is “standard” or precedent, but know that we are responsible for creating the society and world in which we wish to live in, and all of us have the power to make the space around us more inspiring. We will no longer live dull, unfulfilled-seeming lives simply because we are afraid to risk new things, to be strange, to have fun, to engage in childlike moments of joy: go to a park, make masks and wear costumes, invent our own board game, build a tree fort, be undignified … make a mess, laugh more – worry what others will think or say less. It is our life and no one else has to live in it but ourselves. Those who are “different” (for we all are, truly) will be valued for those characteristics that make them unique, not criticized for them. Different will never again mean broken. We will realize in this new world that each person brings something vital to the table, that single piece of the grand puzzle that we cannot complete without them.
Some other awesome books relevant to creativity I’d like to recommend are:
Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo, by Hayden Herrera – An interesting, close look at the life of an iconic artist whose work was the most intimate form of self expression. After an accident that left her with severe health problems and a lot of time in and out of hospital beds throughout the rest of her life, she used art as a therapy in the purest sense. I read this before Express Yourself Artshop even existed, let alone I began working there. Still, I was always moved by the idea of art as a refuge for the wounded, and a voice for the stifled.
The Crowd, The Critic, and The Muse, by Michael Gungor – The ideas for this book started with a blog Gungor wrote entitled “Zombies, Wine, and Christian Music” (I’m sure I’m not the only one dissapointed his book bared not the same title, but ah well…). Gungor, a musician whose work is faith influenced, discusses how a creator must balance all the noise coming in from the voices of critics, fans, and one’s own internal voice. He cautions against creating only to please one or the other, especially giving fans and critics precedent in what we put out into the world over our own creative soul. Given that he is a faith inspired artist, he works in a genre filled with restrictions, expectations, and plenty of red tape that usually dominated by sappy pop music for middle aged suburban folks (He does not himself enjoy making sappy pop music, for the record). Because of this struggle, his personal stories give wise counsel for navigating the treacherous terrain of making a living in a creative field while still creating work you are passionate about, and also holds all creatives in this day and age to a higher standard of being not just well liked but world changing .
The Art of Asking, by Amanda Palmer – Love or hate this musician (and people tend to either feel one way or the other), this book holds fantastic insight about getting your craft out into the world from the bottom up. The stories within are told like a personal conversation with your best friend, but with lessons that can apply to anyone. There is no blatant advice or “Hey, you need to do this” included in these pages, just “Hello, this is my story, take from it what you will”. This book especially meant a lot to me, because I am one of those people who, like her, wants to do everything myself – especially with art. I have time and time again experienced her fear of the imaginary “fraud police” (That anxiety bubbling up form the fear that you only think you are a competent artist/musician/actress/teacher/chemist/whatever and will soon be discovered for the talentless charlatan you truly are). I also have at times experienced guilt over my chosen path, especially when it is not going as successfully as I’d hoped (What right do I have to try and pursue a field I actually enjoy, when so many others trudge off to jobs they hate day in and day out? Why do I think I deserve to be so happy? How dare I have the audacity to attempt to live out my dreams?) Seriously, life changing stuff here. This book even inspired my starting of this blog :).
So, what kind of world do you want to create? Be honest, we all think about it – what changes, either physically or in mentality, would make the world suck a little less? And of course, have any of you read any awesome books that inspired you creatively? I’m always looking for book suggestions – as I mentioned before, total bibliophile. Chatting is fun, don’t be shy!