Thinking Out Loud

September 14, 2017

Practical Advice for the Aspiring Actor, Poet, Playwright, Singer, Songwriter

Good news for the aspiring artist: You don’t have to starve. Furthermore, Jeff Goins believe there are four financial paths an artist can follow, with poverty and starvation being simply one option!

Real Artists Don’t Starve isn’t the usual type of book we cover here. Because I review books for HarperCollins Christian Publishing, it’s offered through their distribution system. I asked for a copy so I could read it for my son — an aspiring actor and writer — and then pass the copy on to him.

Author Jeff Goins is someone I ran into years ago in the Christian blog world, and he himself got some early mentoring from Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson. Some of you will recognize his name from the cover of the 2015 NIV Bible for Men, hence the inclusion here, but for the most part, he’s followed the trail to writing business and marketing titles, albeit from a Christian perspective. His catalog includes The In Between (Moody Press, 2013), The Art of Work (Thomas Nelson, 2015) and now Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Surviving in the New Creative Age.

The book is divided into three sections, (a) developing the right mind-set, (b) approaching and understanding the market, and (c) the thorny issue of money; getting paid. In each are four chapters and overall the book is well-crafted reading.

Goins relies heavily on both anecdotal accounts from artists alive and well and historical biographies of artists from past centuries, the latter mostly from the visual arts. (I would have liked more composers in the mix, but that’s my only criticism.) Some of this was accomplished through regular research, but he also was able to obtain a number of face-to-face interviews to give this project much original content.

So what’s his advice?

Some of it flies in the face of what the non-artist might conclude. Be original? Goins says it’s okay to steal, though he does qualify that. Be good at one thing? Goins says you need a diversified portfolio. Be generous just to get your art out there? Goins tells artists never to give their art away for free. Find a Patron? (Or Patreon, but he doesn’t say that!) Goins suggests it’s a great way to go, but you might have to be your own patron, at least at the start, earning income through regular work that supports you and your art.

In other words, this is realistic. But he also says that there are steps you can take so you don’t starve.

Unable to wait to send my son the book, I sent him a few excerpts:

Starving Artists wait for their Big Breaks.
Thriving Artists become apprentices in their crafts. (p.40)

[on Zach Prichard]  But let’s not misinterpret what happened here: talent did not do this; tenacity did. If you want to see your work succeed, you must be stubborn. You must be willing to keep going, even in the face of adversity. On the surface, stubbornness may look like a liability, but in creative work, it can be an asset.  (p. 65)

Once we have mastered our mind-sets, we must tackle the market. Here, we cross the threshold from being creative to doing creative work. This is the place where we become professionals and learn how this works in the real world. This is where we network and advertise our talents to the masses. And if we do this well, people will not just pay attention, they will also pay us. (p. 69)

All creative works need influencers who will vouch for them to an audience who doesn’t know them yet. But it is not enough to meet a patron; you must cultivate one… If you are going to create work that matters, you are going to need an advocate — a person who sees your potential and believes in your work. (p. 75)

We hold in our minds a certain picture of a professional artist as a lone creator, some solitary genius who executes a vision all by himself, slaving away at the work with only his thoughts and brilliance to keep him company. But this is a gross misunderstanding of how real artists get their work done. As creativity researcher Keith Sawyer says, “You can’t be creative alone. Isolated individuals are not creative. That’s not how creativity happens.” (p. 110)

Those are all from the first half. I don’t want to give too much away here. But the book is full of many, many nuggets of wisdom like this. And yes, I did finish the book, all 232 pages, even re-reading some sections at the beginning after turning the last page. (Sidebar: The way the bibliography was set up — almost conversationally — was absolutely brilliant.)

To be clear to regular readers here, this isn’t “Devotions for Artists.” Jeff Goins is a Christian writer, but the book is published under the Nelson Books imprint. Again, it doesn’t conform to my usual reading habits, but it was interesting and edgy enough to keep me turning pages. Reading it through my son’s eyes made a lot of difference as well.

 

October 15, 2015

Currently Reading

Filed under: books, Christianity, reviews — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:29 am

I have books stashed all over; in the living room, by the bedside table, and at the workplace* that I access not for review purposes, but just casually reading them for their input. Sometimes I reach the half-way mark and consider doing a review after all; you never know. With these I’m almost at the middle page, though these two books could not be more different.

The Key to Everything - Matt KellerMatt Keller — The Key to Everything: Unlocking the Life You Dream of Living (Thomas Nelson, September 2015)

This would fall into the Leadership genre as Keller is both a Florida pastor and a leadership consultant. The theme is teachability and he looks at things that impede it, the nature of it, and the art of maintaining it; using examples from his own experience and principles taken from the story of Saul (the OT king) and Saul (the NT Paul) and Solomon (the OT wise guy.) Is teachability truly the key to everything? In the intro, even Keller admits the title is a bit overreaching.

There’s some good stuff here for pastors as well as husbands/dads, but the primary target reader is probably someone in business. If you’d like to know more, try this review.

So far there’s been some repetition, and I wish that (like Kyle Idleman) the rather humorous footnotes had been bottom-of-page instead of end-of-chapter; and the content is — as it is in all leadership books — aimed at those who are driven to success. If you like John Maxwell**, who is frequently quoted, you’ll like this.

Accidental Saints - Nadia Bolz-WeberNadia Bolz-Weber — Accidental Saints: Finding God in All The Wrong People (Convergence, September, 2015)

A year-and-a-half after the autobiographical Pastrix (which we reviewed here), the tattooed, sometimes foul-mouthed, Lutheran pastor from Denver is back, this time with what could be described more as a collection of essays; many of which revolve around the various people who make up the weird that is House For All Sinners and Saints (aka HFASS; say it out loud, you know you want to) and people she encounters in the course of her unlikely vocation as professional clergy.

Most people reading this will struggle getting past the language (i.e. occasional F-bombs and S-bombs)*** yet my thinking on this is the same as what my wife and I conclude each time we listen to a new sermon podcast from her church; namely that underneath all the tats Nadia’s theology is quite sound; quite orthodox. Some of the chapters, like the one where as a young Church of Christ girl she visits the home of a very Marian Catholic family, are actually quite heart-warming.

For reasons that escape me, Random House, Hachette and Simon and Schuster insist on releasing their religious books, published under the imprints Waterbrook (and Convergence which this one is), Faithwords and Howard Books, in first-edition hardcovers. Even Canada doesn’t catch an “international paperback edition” break as it does with Christian publishers Baker, Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, etc. There’s always a paperback down the road, but I think a book like this one, published in a popular trade edition, could seize its momentum and draw in a greater number of readers.****

Nadia may never make a list of favorite authors, but she’s definitely one of my favorite people.


Like I said, the two books could not be more different, but I am enjoying them both.

*But not the bathroom. This is, in my opinion an abuse of books. You’re there for a specific purpose and you want to get in and get out quickly. To paraphrase Proverbs 25:17, ‘Do not spend too much time on thy neighbor’s toilet, lest you get caught up reading the magazines there.’ (Actually, that’s a big stretch from the original text.)

**I’m not a J.M. fan myself, but I’d rather be effective than successful. Nonetheless, there appears to be a strong market for this genre of writing, and there are a number of leadership-related blogs listed in the right margin here at Thinking Out Loud.

***I’m more concerned about the H-word: hate. I think that in past decades we’ve placed too much emphasis on particular lexical elements (like the f-word), and not enough on the content of what people are actually saying. (But don’t expect me to use that word in full here anytime soon.)

****I have always marveled at, even the midst of recession, the American insistence on first-edition hardcovers. England, Australia, New Zealand and other such places always get the paperbacks from Day One. As someone in the business, I never miss an opportunity to rant on this.

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