reviews

Reviews of books and courses I have delved into and think might be useful to FC! readers…

The joy of dislocation (creativity and travel, part II)

Anchor [Explored]
Creative Commons License photo credit: Salmando

I have been travelling a lot lately, so I guess that means it’s time for a followup to my old Creativity and Travel post from a couple of years back. I’ve also been reading a bit more than usual, and one of the things I’ve been reading is Jonathan Fields’ excellent book Uncertainty, which I may do a full review of at some point.

I liked a lot of things about Uncertainty, and it rang true in a lot of ways; mostly confirming my suspicion that in many ways I am that oddest of creatures, a person who basically enjoys unstable or unresolved situations, genuinely likes to shake things up, try new and unfamiliar things, take on challenges I don’t know if I’ll be able to meet.

In many ways this ties into my general philosophy of ‘just say yes‘… interestingly, an old friend just contacted me via Facebook and told me that he remembers me from time to time when he uses a story about me learning to tune pianos to try to inspire patients to ‘confidently go forth into areas where they have no apparent skill in the present moment’. Guilty as charged, I suppose!

security blankets

However, I am also human and so despite learned habit I am subject to many basic human instincts and traits, so the idea that we can find ways to mitigate our general distaste for being out on a limb also made a lot of sense to me. One of the key concepts Fields outlines is that of the Certainty Anchor: these are things in our lives that do not change and/or that we feel sure of, that can give us something stable to hold on to while we take risks in other areas.

Many of these consist of routines. We can anchor our threatened sense of self around a set of things we are sure about and that give us a feeling of security – familiar places, people, little rituals or practices we do the same way or at the same time every day. We all do this anyway, but if we pay a bit more attention to it and do it consciously or with more intention, we can increase that feeling of security that allows us to take risks in other ways.

So what does this have to do with travel? Travel is when we cast the certainty anchors aside for a little while and step into the realm of the genuinely uncertain. Or at least, it can be. Why would we want to do that? Read on…

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Creating Grace

swans
Creative Commons License photo credit: neal young.

I picked up an unusual little ebook recently, called ‘Graceful: Making a Difference in a World that Needs You‘*. It’s by the notorious Seth Godin (and if you don’t know who that is, now would be a good moment to go find out…) and it’s a tiny little thing, consisting of 30 short chapters that are very much in Seth’s trademark rapid-fire, gently provocative style. You can read it in about half an hour.

I’m not exactly sure why but it’s really gotten under my skin. It’s not long on specific, actionable content, so if that’s what you’re looking for you’re likely better off seeking elsewhere. Rather, the chapters seem to unfold like a series of Zen ‘koans’, planting little seeds here and there which quietly blossom, as the book unfolds,  into something quite remarkable.

Without getting into a serious review, which could easily end up being longer than the book, I want to touch on what it’s had me thinking about…

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Freedom, Money and Time…

freedom
Creative Commons License photo credit: DorkyMum

Hi there… regular readers will recall that last year I wrote a review of the Lateral Action course; it’s a ‘Roadmap for the Creative Entrepreneur’ which I bought last year and got a lot out of, so I wanted to recommend it. Well, the doors are opening again and this time Mark McGuinness, who runs the wonderful Lateral Action blog, has prepared some superb free content to go along with the relaunch, in the form of an ebook called ‘Freedom, Money, Time – and the Key to Creative Success‘. I think it’s worth a read, and wanted to pass it along to you.

Here’s a bit of initial information to whet your appetite, or you can just go ahead and click here to download the book straightaway – no opt-in or anything. The ebook does contain an affiliate link, which means that if,  after looking through the free materials, you decide the full Roadmap is for you I would make a commission on the price you pay.

However, the book itself is free, and there is a TON of other great information on the Lateral action site that won’t cost you a dime, including a guest post by yours truly and an extensive email course by Mark called ‘The Creative Pathfinder’ – so there’s really no pressure to buy anything here – but I do still think the full Roadmap is superb.

Free Ebook: Freedom, Money, Time – and the Key to Creative Success

Creative people need three things to be happy:

  1. Freedom – to do what you want, when you want and how you want it. Not just in holidays and spare time – but also doing meaningful work, in your own way.
  2. Money – to maintain your independence and fund your creative projects. Of course you want a nice place to live, but you’re not so worried about a bigger car than the guy next door. You’d rather spend money on experiences than status symbols.
  3. Time – to spend as you please, exploring the world and allowing your mind to wander in search of new ideas.

Usually, you’re lucky if you get two out of the three. But if one of them is missing, it compromises the other two.

Without money, you don’t have much freedom, because you have to spend your time chasing cash. Without time off, money doesn’t buy you a lot of freedom.

And if you’re doing something you hate for a living, it doesn’t matter how big your salary is, or how much holiday you get. You still feel trapped.

Surely there must be a more creative solution?

This is the premise of a new free ebook by Mark McGuinness: Freedom, Money, Time – and the Key to Creative Success.

The ebook describes Mark’s unconventional career journey, as a poet and creative coach, and the lessons he’s learned the hard way about finding the right combination of freedom, money and time.

It’s full of practical advice you can apply to your own situation, if you want to earn a living from your creative talent, or if you’re a freelancer or small business owner and want to make your business less stressful and more profitable.

Mark and his partners have also prepared an in-depth training program to accompany the ebook, and I’m pleased to be an affiliate partner for the launch (see above). But the ebook itself is free to download, with no need to even give your email address!

Click here to download your copy of Freedom, Money, Time and the Key to Creative Success.

And feel free to share the ebook with anyone who you think would find it helpful.

Review Double Feature: ‘Ignore Everybody’ and ‘the War of Art’

book covers

Here’s a review of two recent books on creativity that have done rather well for themselves and their authors. The first is ‘The War of Art‘*, by screenwriter and novelist Stephen Pressfield (the title refers, of course, to the 6th century treatise on military strategy attributed to Sun Tzu, the Art of War); the second is the equally wonderfully-titled ‘Ignore Everybody (and 39 other Keys to Creativity)‘* by Hugh MacLeod, a popular cartoonist, blogger and general man-about-the-net.

While this will not be an entirely glowing review, particularly in one case, I want to start by saying that I consider both of these to be essential reading for the creativity space. Despite some misgivings, I think they are extremely valuable and accessible works and I heartily and unreservedly recommend them both.

There are a number of similarities, which is one reason I have chosen to review them together (another is that I happened to buy them together and read them sequentially). Both are edgy, streetwise and a little curmudgeonly, with short punchy chapters and an unapologetic willingness to take potentially controversial positions. Tough love, as it were, from a couple of guys who have done their time in the trenches – which is a nice change from the frequently more academic treatments of the topic.

Both are also written from the perspective of essentially solo artists, and portray the task at hand and the journey we are on as basically an individual endeavor. This might not ring true for everyone; as discussed in my previous post, collaboration is a deep creative well for many artists, and for some it is literally inseparable from the process; neither of these authors really mentions it at all. They may be more attractive to people working in similarly solitary idioms.

Finally, they are both fairly short books; I read each in a sitting-and-a-half, as it were, and will likely dip into them regularly for a bit of inspiration or a kick in the butt from time to time.

There are also some key differences: Ignore Everybody* is more practical, the War of Art* more psychological. MacLeod includes a selection of his own work in cartoon form, where Pressfield only makes reference to his novels and screenplays, in some cases quite self-effacingly. He also uses a lot more sports metaphors; this is the author of ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’, after all (subsequent events have cast a different light on his numerous references to Tiger Woods, but I’ll try not to hold that against him). More

Doing it Sideways… the Lateral Action Course for Creative Entrepreneurs

sideways
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sideways (the movie), via Hot Rod Homepage

Well it’s review time again. My aim with these is to work through a list of books and courses that I’ll be posting here very shortly on a handy Creative Resources page… Meanwhile, this one is in the time-is-of-the-essence category, as there’s a very limited window to get in on this one – and I simply can’t speak too highly of it.

I’m talking about the Lateral Action Course for Creative Entrepreneurs*. It’s mostly a joint project between Brian Clark (of Copyblogger fame, among a host of other endeavours) and the wonderfully helpful Mark McGuinness who somehow finds time to maintain his own Wishful Thinking blog as well as producing many of the Lateral Action site materials – which are themselves highly recommended. There are also contributions from frequent Brian Clark collaborators Tony Clark (everyone seems to feel the need to clarify that they are not actually related) and Sonia Simone.

The Lateral Action course was my first substantial information-product purchase, and I doubt I could have made a better choice. It presents a truly vast amount of information, for one thing, and it’s also really superbly structured – walking you through Content Marketing from the broad strategy level to much more specific tactics.

This has proved invaluable to me as an artist trying to come to grips with how to interface with this unfamiliar world, and given me the confidence to start building out my creative vision into a long-term business model. And it really is aimed at helping artists and other creative types come to an understanding of online business – no mean feat, as we are often notoriously bullheaded on the subject – well, speaking for myself anyway.

The sections on psychology are tremendously useful as well, directing us around some of the more dangerous pitfalls and blind alleys of the journey towards Creative Entrepreneurship. Mark McGuinness is a practicing Creative Coach and he clearly has a profound understanding of the psychological aspects of creativity, but for me the real value has been in helping me bridge the gap between creativity and the entrepreneurial mindset. More

Thoughts on Abundance and Manifestation…

Backwards prayer
Creative Commons License photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski

I’ve just finished reading a little ebook by Mark Silver called Backwards, and it’s got me thinking about a few things. It’s a free download (you don’t even have to opt in!) so if the following piques your interest, head on over and grab yourself a copy!

The basic proposition seems to be that in terms of ‘getting what you want’ in life, or building a life you want to live, the popular Law Of Attraction / Manifestation concept might be putting the cart before the horse. Silver offers a ‘heart-centered’ Sufi perspective on how to go about it the other way around. I started thinking about how this might apply to creativity…

I’m not sure the book is for everyone, but I feel it’s a very sincere and powerful little document and well worth a read if you’re open-minded about such things. That said, if the notion that a mystical/gnostic tradition with roots in Islam might have something profound to offer to the modern world is upsetting to you or challenges your core beliefs in ways that make you uncomfortable, you should probably steer clear; then again, you might not be in the right place here, either… More