A few months ago I shelled out a few dollars to support the most recent literary project of Seth Godin. The book is called ‘What to do when it’s your turn (and it’s always your turn)’. He described the book as an experiment (he’s kind of known for experiments), and more importantly he has described it as a book he wants shared with others. When it showed up in my post box there were five copies, not the three I had ordered. That was the bonus that was mentioned when I ordered back in early December, 2014. The bonus is intended to help buyers, particularly the early recipients of the book, share the message of the book with others. What is it about?
Basically, Seth Godin thinks we are wasting the chance of a lifetime. The book, in his words, is “an urgent call to do the work we’re hiding from, a manifesto about living with things that might not work and embracing tension when doing your art.” It continues his long term theme of embracing the tension, knowing that the anxiety before a decision is risk feedback and a visceral call to do great things. Mainly, it is a continuation of his manifesto to ‘ship’ your work. Realize that perfection is the enemy of productivity.
My last blog post was on the value of a higher education. Now, lets flip the concept of a formal degree on its head. I want to share with you some learnings from a book that has really inspired me. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon is a wonderful collection of thoughts around the theme of developing your art through, well, the blatant copying of others. Sound like simple plagiarism? It’s not. Read on.
Reading the book you are struck by the fact that it is not a typical ‘self help’ or ‘productivity’ book. It is a compendium of thoughts and graphics and quotations that serve to illustrate the point that you can develop and create better art of whatever kind (writing, music, dance, visual, theatre) by actively studying and copying the work of the greats who have gone before you, the greats you may wish to eventually join ranks with.
Seth Godin’s new book ‘The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?‘ has garnered a great deal of publicity lately, and rightfully so. It’s a good book by an impressive and visionary author. Quite aside from the content (which is great) the story of how the book came to be is a story in itself. Seth wanted to change the publishing paradigm that places enormous risk on the author and publisher by funding books before fully understanding the ultimate demand for them. He used the traditional publisher, but did so after he used Kickstarter to test the market among his followers (his tribe) and activate his fans long before the book was published rather than at the time of publishing as is traditionally done. It was a huge success. The goals of his Kickstarter project were met within a few hours and within days over $250,000 was committed. By launching the book as a Kickstarter project he was able to prove its viability. That is how the book came to be. What is the book about? Creating art. I want to talk about the art in this painting and what it tells us about life and the art we can create if we look around.
This painting, attributed to Pieter Bruegel the Elder (although now thought to be a copy of an earlier work of his), has held my interest since I first studied it in college, I think in the typical undergraduate elective called ‘Appreciation of Art: 101’. At first glance you cannot tell that a man is drowning in the foreground. There… look by the boat. That’s Icarus, and as we know from the account by Ovid in Metamorphoses, he flew too close to the sun and fell from the sky, drowning after the wax holding his feathers melted.