Austin Kleon (https://austinkleon.com/) is the New York Times bestselling author of Steal Like an Artist, Show Your Work!, and his newest book, Keep Going (https://amzn.to/2MxSePD). His work has been translated into over 20 languages and featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, PBS NewsHour, and in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He speaks about creativity in the digital age for organizations such as Pixar, Google, SXSW, TEDx, and the Economist. In previous lives, he worked as a librarian, a web designer, and an advertising copywriter. He grew up in the cornfields of Ohio, devoted himself to music as a kid, writing and art as an adult, and now calls Austin, Texas, home. Today, we explore his journey and lens on creativity, work and life.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
So I had so much fun sitting down today with my guest fasting cleon. He is the author of a series of books, the first one about like out actually and actually then
deal like an artist show your work and his latest keep going. We touch into some of the ideas on all of these books, their wonderful, their short, their illustrated there in sight for their fun, but even sort of bigger picture. We really explore his personal journey and some of the big moments, the big people and experiences that have shaped him. He group, in Circleville, ohio, tiny town surrounded by cornfields, ended up fast needed with reading writing, making art and making music, and he is one of those rare people that has figured out how to
keep those threads woven in the centre of his life as he's navigate into adulthood and parenthood, and
build a meaningful living around those things where he is able to do all of them constantly and at the same time sustain himself and his family and give back in a really powerful way. We talk about all of those,
Things in this conversation so excited to share with you. I'm Jonathan fields- and this is good life project
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this woman came up to me in Chicago and said
My god, you are my hero and, as they were in
she reminded me who she was her son had gone to art school and had gotten arrested at charged with a felony for her vandalism like graffiti, and she had written to me like seven years ago and said what am I spoke like. I'm just what am I supposed to do
here. I just wrote back to her and I said: oh there's, no lower life form than nineteen year old boy like he'll, be fine, and so she came to the chicago
the library is laid out yet like seven years later and said you don't know how, like that. Put me at ease he's a painter in brooklyn. Now, that's me,
I was probably just writing back there like yeah. You know trying to clear my inbox, alright, that she was like he's a painter brooklyn out clean, but his exes so often rate so many times you
like that somebody's innate, certainly gift or talent or or in
commission says themselves and can slightly aberdeen ways earlier life follow ups but late. The parental arson
the societal responses late to just like shut it down. There ain't mainstream menacingly your stories like that:
somehow somewhere along the way he figured out how to redirect it
me my son looked at me the other day and he wanted us to give him. I don't know if you wanted lemonade organs iphone or even though
old, I found I let him play you records music on garage ban where needs in the back of the car, and I forget what I said about
you know we're like now. You can have that right now, he's like one, then I'm going to turn evil
boy, the world the way he said like I'm going to turn evil, and I I it is funny with him all the time cause. I really see that that creativity and destructiveness, like the sort of like
and now, if you dont channel the energy in the right
correction. There. You know I like it
in line for sure, that's where he kind of curious. I wonder what his evil looks like yeah, like what would
Does he think destroying the world right away consisted like what are you gonna do to destroy the world you I'm gonna, get you got a story behind the single market.
in this way the eu is only ever. Do your best. Take him in the back yard. Ok, do your best destroy the world that are often to your cheek is now you grew up in and for one in early,
Pre rural, a high yeah, I grew up like I don't even grow up in the small town. I actually grew up like outside of the small town cornfield.
Yeah we're in the middle of a cornfield and in like sort of central southern ohio
Now I yeah and my mom was a hallmark teacher guidance, counselor eventually high school principle. My dad works
ohio state who is an ag agent, so he ran like the county fair in the forage program, so they give you don't have an accent yeah like given I'll give you an idea of like how rural might like I took hogs to the county, fair selling, that's the kind of like that's what I grew up.
Whereas a grown up around that. What are you into his again seemed stuff? I'm into.
now readying music, make an art
you know I always loved that stuff. It was just in.
My one of my earliest met earliest memories is: is copying garfield cartoons on the kitchen
or my grandma's farmhouse, you know with nature paper and crayons you now and that sort of an m playing her piano.
and then reading going off and reading books. I mean that's and that still what I do now said Edith
things here, like latin american, make the inner yeah just reading in and drawing in writing in making music. What annoys me, what was music for you as a kid, because I assume that goes by
something you love just as as like a consumer, but also on the creative side as well yeah I so I just spent all of my teenage years- writing music and writing songs no kidding, so that was almost like the central yeah that was like. That was my real passion and I'm
sort of trained on classical piano and everything else is served self taught.
things in and involve a cornfield, and my best friend is a drummer. So that was incredibly
like a world class drummer and- and so we would make music all the time together, but he lived like twenty minutes away and we didn't have car. So you know it be like
Ganz or whatever, so the rest of the time it was like a sword had to teach herself to play. Whatever instrument you could get your hand
one per unit? One person ban- and I remember getting task- am for track.
that require remedies, as you know, giant back in the air, I think they cost like four hundred and fifty dollars and I got one and and- and you know you know using cosette tapes to make songs and that's where I spent like most of my teenage years doing, and I think that the thing I think about that now, as the I think, all creative work sort of exists on a spectrum, and I think that any time you
Ben doing something creative like sort of builds up over the years. I think. Even now you know, even though my my you know my job now isn't making music, but I feel
all those hours
spent in a room. China make something exist where it didn't exist before. I just feel like that time is never wasted
You know I mean I feel, like all those hours of trying to figure out what it's like to make stuff just accumulates over time, and so I just don't think they're a things wasted. Gas agree. I think it's just a second
different channels that stimulate your your brain kind of like in a different way, and almost, I think so much creativity is pattern, recognition, epsilon and if you can, if you have surly more more ways to come into that, you know whether it's through music through sound through visual, through words through
It's just like it. It's more ways to stimulate the brain, to recognise differently and see how things goody other yeah, I was someone who like had, I remember seeing shell silver stiens bio on the back of work, where this
adblock walk and whatever, and it was like he writes. Poems, draws pictures and writes songs and has a good time or something like that, and I was like I want to be that person.
And you know I I knew from a young age- I wanted to be somebody who did a lot of different things like that was just that that just like really appealed to me that early age, you know- I wasn't. I wasn't like I, you know, like my buddy,
mentioned earlier, like he's been wanting to be a drummer, since he was five and like knew that- and I just never had that. I wanted to do like a bunch of different things yeah, but there is a common thread like that, because there's er there's something from nothing
that exists with everything that you do. Yeah I mean that's. I I james cook choco, the cartoonist talks really well about this is that he just feels like if you're good at- and I think this is kind of a controversial thing to say, and he he feels like if you're good at one creative thing you might be able to like go to another form, pick it up cause he just
feels like there's something that you learn as a creative person there, some sort of process, something you tap into yeah. Couldn't you can? You know, convert that two other forms?
and I think part of that also right. Isn't that you like it's it's almost this belief and possibility. He know unawares
Ok, so I started from nothing
you know- and maybe I didn't have jobs they have skills. Somehow I figured it out and I made something so ignorant in one domain like why, couldn't I figure it out?
other yeah and it's a willingness to start from like an unknown spot, a place of not knowing. I think people don't get this about creative work as that creative work runs on
uncertainty in like a runs on not knowing what you're doing I mean I've read a lot of interviews with musicians like some of my Tom way it sir Tom Europe her on the wire mentoring Tom's, but those are what from the mine but they'll say like
you know when the well run dry with songwriting they'll pick up an instrument that they don't really know very well and then figuring out. That instrument will come up with all sorts of new ideas.
I look at it and my six year old's the same way, I mean he'll just pick up, you don't have to show him very much on stuff and he just goes for it. There's a there's like this. It's weird because it's like a confidence in the
in you know, I mean it's like half a confidence and not knowing you like your car, you like. Well, I don't know what I'm doing, but I have a confidence that can figure it out the really mechanical guys. I know you know that the people I know who are really good with their hands like just like making staff- and I like my dad, for example- is like really good at like just figured out how to use a tool, and I think it's more of justa a and a bill.
Ready to be comfortable starting from zero? What you said and you now just like starting from nothing there I mean, but essentially right, because I think a lot of people. I know a lot of people that we too in and I feel like I'm wire that way. So maybe we reckon
each other yet know going when you see that person who want to make your asses for so long has been had and how to if you don't have that to serve naturally be touchdown you're, not that person you step in, like you you're you're
half step into the best. Merely oh hell now yeah, like is it train about. I don't know,
I mean I wonder about that, and I wonder about that with my work cause, so much of it is attempting to get people to train themselves. I think it it requires a you know getting uncomfortable. I think you can train yourself. I think there's ways that you can train yourself to be one
with not knowing I mean, like my my youngest son and my wife are a lot more like they like to practice in private. They don't like to like to like to figure out stuff before they're like going to go
into a in our, and so I do think it might be like a personality thing. I think, there's ways that you can. I really believe that creativity,
it's like a muscle or a verb. It's like something that you do it's something that you can get better at. I I do. I do kind of believe I think we all have proclivities and I think we all come here with different talents, but I do think that you can sort of get in the right mind
that, and if you do the riot act, you know like I'm not as super physical guy like I'm not like super into exercising and sports and stuff. But I do know that like if I do pushups every day like I get better at it, you know and that's how I kind of feel about this
his stuff is like you just have to do it everyday and more caught the muscles and get better now. I I think also that there's and I've seen this. I'm sure you've seen this all over. Also that and those who seem to will exist for a sustained amount of time in that space, especially when the stakes get higher. There's a certain amount of of ritual routine, that's built into their life that I that I I at least my
my theory on this is that a lot of that provides. You should have liked the regularity where you can can a touchstone anita, pollack, here's a mobile
or space or window where, like I know how it's gonna go yeah and that let you go into that other space, where you completely on tethered and somehow be a region,
the uk yeah that all sides, I think so I mean I sort of think that leg twilight far rights while about this in the creative had a lake just that you know you had these schedule.
times where you gonna work and so the rest, your life, could be chaotic or
the energy need. You need boundaries and structures.
that you go wild and hat and kind of go
Let me know with and then the net is the schedule,
now having like a set time to work, and then you can be wild in hazardous. It's this! It's this thing where it's like. You have to sort of be disciplined enough to set up these times and these root routines and read.
Tools to work, but then you can be free and those times you know yeah. I know for you also. I know you're a long time diary keeper do it. It was that, from the time we were locators at more recent. Well, I've always kept have kept notebooks since
I was about middle school like what's the longer I am but dire, like keeping of old fashioned
fiery is sort of new. For me and for years I kept what I call a logbook which is just like a daily planner, basically that in reverse, where I just fill in the day at the end of it so like, and that was simply a memory too.
I have a terrible memory for what happens to me, so I literally wanted to know like oh I launch was so and so that day
and then just knowing that monday in detail or bring back the day for me and refresh my memory so did that for years and years by about two or three
years ago. I got really obsessed with two davids David Sedaris and Henry David thoreau, and they both have
very similar. Are writing routines where genetic ye keep a pocket no book all day, iran scribble things, and then you go to your desk in you right here journal your diary and then he turn those diary entries in two
longer forms writing. So a couple years ago I adopted, I carry a notebook with me all day and I scribbler all day and then
morning. I sit down with the no book an ideal
My diary and I right there like three to ten pages and a lot of the last book. I rode came straight from the diaries working that way and what I love
about that is that you never have to worry about what you're gonna write about, because you ve written in your
but there are do you do your work? You do like never have to come up with anything, and so I am the yeah keeping a diary. I think it also has helped me cause. I have such little. Kids time is like speeding up so much because
so busy all the time? I think they keeping a diary helps me stay mindful and sort of pay attention to what's going on yeah, so I you know yeah I've, but I've always kept notebooks. Since I was like a middle school yeah and it's it's really interesting too, because what you just described, surely
my current practice. It's interesting blend of real time capture. Then let your brain process it unconsciously ever you like the better part of the daily and sleep on it, which is what
integration happens and then the next morning, when your your version of morning pages or, however, you wanna describe it here, it's like the integral, like the output of that integration, then gets formed into some couple of pages of language. So you brain just kind of flip back and forth between the states with space in the middle to do
integration, the processing yeah, I'm I'm a real believer in time. As a great editor like I feel like you eat, and that could be as much of psych. Looking at yesterday, through the lens of today, you saw a figure out what was really important to you.
today, but then also like when I write something I'll: stick it in a drawer for at least a week cause. I want to make it weird for me again. You know you want to a strange the text, you what you want to come back to the text like a stranger, so you can edit it and see it for what it is. You know, and time will do that, for you like yesterday, looks strange. You know to you cause you're here today, whereas it felt really familiar yesterday. You know I mean like it's just like something about just a little
time and I think that sort of the problem right now with creative work is that people are able to make an share, split sack hat,
It can make something and just share it immediately, and that temptation is so great. You now and I even like to work that way. Sometimes I like to make like a poem or something just posted online, see what people say right away, but I really think that, like time is the great editor
North korea work know it. It's a really interesting tension, though right because, on the one hand you're like okay, so I have the ability now to vat to have this externally validated in the blink of an eye, yeah vs, and that- and that can happen like snap, your fingers non vs. My own internal validation process is probably gonna. Take.
That is too weak totally. So it's like you have to hurry satellite near Paulson between those two states and any who gets who wins.
I'll. Tell you in my life, what's important is to have a private outlet in a public outlet. Okay, so right now, it's like my diary is very private. It's where I go to push mice
often be awful. If I want to be sentimental, are sadly or whatever and then
so I right in the diary everyday, but then I also make a blog post. Every day I went back to daily blogging just and sometimes there long pose. Sometimes there really short, like just almost one sentence with the picture, and what I found is that that blog sort of a thorough stuff out there and then see how people respond to it, and I, I think, like Heaven, that public output and private output helps me
bounce between those two things. We were just talking about that, like instant validation, vs like hey, let me let this sit and percolate, and you know see what I think about it when I reread it next week. I want do you ever have this this scenario where you put something out there?
Mediately! That's sir, like it, it's like a teaser or piece of what what's your percolating privately and then publicly.
I get the response you on and then reflects whether you actually choose to go back to relate the private thing later and do anything with it. I mean this is tough, yeah cause. I I like to tell people all the time
MIKE look. You know what flies on mine too. This is what so tricky about something like into which I love, I'm sort of like instagram to me is like one of the last social platforms them sort of like ok with
but but the thing about instagram just always remind people like instagram, is all about contacts. It's what flies. Well,
instagram really isn't about. What's the cooler work, as I can tell you, like, I've made staff that I just think man. This is the next step for me like business, the sweetest radice stuff, I've done in a while.
Hosting my cricket, sir you're half and then all like scribble, something on no pad and take a picture of it imposed. It ever get like five thousand like sir, and it simply just because whatever is easily digestible. That's what people click the
but non. You know, but then it's like if, if someone who follows me on instagram who's, a friend of mine who I really respect, leave something in the comments and says wow. This is really cool. Then that's like a different metric right. That really sends me so sometimes when those crickets chirp, but then one person, I really respect, leaves a comment and like oh okay, he gets it. She gets it. You know so it's like I. I just I just counsel, because I think, like especially young people who are coming up right now, they use likes as like. That's the metric and it's a validation. But it's also, I think, there's a lot of yeah like lakes as a source for identity.
However, I think that actually does such a huge risk for having other people define, who you think you need to be. Well, you just think about some of your heroes and what it would have been
I like to, have, I mean: did matisse have like us, you know comment section under is cut out. You know what I mean. I mean it's just the you just thinking to yourself like okay in the history of art and all my heroes like who would have operated this way.
Yeah like one of my heroes, Linda berry, who has spanned she's, had such a long career. I mean she'll just turn comments off of her instagram posts and love that she's, like I don't want to hear from you know, nah just like. I don't want the static of that and I love it
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it's funny. Some other creators out there in the world
who am really drawn to two who they are. The work that they have done are the ones who also have their ghosts. He had complete,
I was trying to catch a little while back, I was trying to to find tinker hatfield. This legendary sneaker designer he does not exist anywhere. You know, and even
music like nor jones, doesn't exist. On laura. I love her work. I can't find or a comment earlier does nothing that gets shared like yes, and am I
I think that you really cool too. I learned man and I doing
easier. You know I was reading this interview with bjork and she was talking about how lucky she was too like come up in an age where people bought CD
could she was like idea about a couple houses and now, like any money, I make just goes into the art cause. There's no money there
No, I'm! Yes! So someone like Norah jones, it's like yes he's got. You know, she's had she's tours and stuff, but it just as easily. She could have a social media presence and be able to be bugged. I think someone who's kind of really interesting on social media right now, while there are a couple of musicians that I find are doing amazing work right now on social media. One is patty smith
her instagram has just like being back the it's just it's that you're back in this area and she's very open and like it's really lovely and then the other person, I think, is doing amazing workers with newsletters nick cave in his right hand files where he takes questions from his audience and rights. These beautiful letters back to every body. It's almost like having an advice, com,
read by nick cave, and I think it's interesting, because it does sort of show me personally that you know you take someone whose priority genius like and put him on a platform that they're interested in like they're gonna, be interesting like it's just
can it shows me that you know these words.
I came out earlier that some of the stuff transfers in between forms- like I mean what one of my questions about this also is an a you write that you write about this a number of places near you knew what to do, which is everybody evolves. Your point of view of all your cry.
your interests of all right and and and oh creators and artists, are you like you want the way that that gets expressed to evolve along with you yeah and when, when we build followings, you know a hashtag quote for lines.
And especially, if you're, relying on that for some source of inspiration, validation and then you're living you know, and then you decide and then there's an expectation that set their right like this is you this is your genre. This is what you make and then ITALY
That's not really me! Today, like guns now I want to go. You start feeling beholden to serve. You expectations. I don't want you to change that. It's a really we're done
my tail tough? I mean, like I remember, reading quest love, saying leg they just now
the roots like every album. They were gonna lose half their audience. That
it's just how they rolled. I was like man that is ballsy yeah. That is like wow. That's not me, like you know. My idea, like my hope for my audience, is like I pushed just a little bit further with something but there's some sort of bridge that they can follow,
after that. Next thing, you know like there's some sort of connective tissue they'll bring it in, but it's interesting cause like I'm facing a point in my career right now, where it's like I've done these three books, I think they exist, really well
trilogy and I wanna be you know, I'm I feel like I'm done with square books. You have is worth I'm ready for the next thing and
It is interesting where you're like okay. Now, how different is that going to be? You know like water, you know cause I like. What's the is there going to be connected to
two. Is there gonna be like a a bridge or is that you're you're going to have to make the leap with me? You know- and it's it's like such an interesting question, but I also think that again we're thinking about.
You know you can make stuff that's way out there and not necessarily share. So that's what I'm really entered.
And right now, like I'm interested in light, can I have an a venue for myself privately, where I try a bunch of crazy staff and only show it to like a crew of clothes
people and then in the publicly I'm really saying stuff, that's a little bit more met it out. You know you know me
yeah. Now I think it's a really interesting way to do. It's almost like you have your own internal skunk works right, yeah, exactly, and only certain people get access to that, but I think we're all like train now to think. Oh well, whatever you make you just put it out there cause like, and that was a big. My book show your work. I think people took from
at book, like some people took it to the extreme where they were like, oh well, I should just set up a webcam in my studio and just let people have twenty four seven access and I was like no. No. No, no, like the point of show your work was to be intentional, with your sharing is
show fangs and share your process in a way that king,
you where you want to go in and can be helpful for oranges
to your audience, it wasn't about like being twenty four seven available. It was about giving people a peek, you know into stuff and taking them along with you on the ride, but it wasn't about showing them everything and I think, as you get an audience I mean for me personally, I am just so much more interested in doing things in private. I was ten years ago. You know what I mean, because I'm just-
and like I I want you know it's almost that funny thing where it's like the minute. An audience shows up you're like oh well. Now I want to do something for myself or whatever
I dunno it's just a game, it's all a game, you know it's all you're balancing and I think you're, just balancing that that that thing where it's
You know milton glaser the designer he said. Do you know professional success, impersonal, grow
r r r at odds all the time, because he's like professional success is just like, and he was talking specifically in the design for
It's like you just get a style, and you run that into the ground, and you just like turn that in your cash cow and you don't change and you just have a style and you just let that run endlessly, which is the opposite of personal growth, which is like you're, always learning are always evolving and whatever, and so to try to find some sort of you know path where you're both professionally doing okay, but also growing. Personally, that's that's tough. You know, I think, like David Bowie, it's like a perfect example of someone who, and he there's a great clip of him on lying. Telling artists like you, have to go into some sort of unknown with each project
grow by he. Someone who, like we kind of, I think it was easy for him because he had the same voice. You know there was a connected at it as the connect at issue you now and then people would follow him, but it may sinking you bring up glaser, so we had among the shell years ago
They now- and that was one of the things that he talked about as it is that you know
he's so fiercely resisted yelled the cook glaser style here you know his egg is a new. He made an aim with posters or this or that of research and approaches to branding and then klein's would want to come to own and cause a kind of one at lake, make it look like this and- and he would have done so- how this conversation sailors in your hiring me because you know like you, you trust that I have a sensibility that will figure out something truly great right and it it may look nothing like it had ever done before, and that was he was one of those people also who really refuse to be locked into that definition. At least this is what you will do for the rest of nea, like you're working career yeah, an army
it it's takes cause, it's real tempting to just play the hits shop and play the hits. You know I was especially all star, and I think this is something that doesn't get talked about a lot which is like if you're
and this is something for you to write, because you ve, essentially you build your life and are living in a creative way and the entire time you been married and soon after our kids, which changes
It'S- the changes- things like reorganizes every atom in your being.
immense. It's you feel like you. I think with job and call me, sir, was like becoming a vampire slayer,
just come come through this really painful turning process, and then you come out the other side and it does this different being a you know. They just change every they just change your perspective on everything you know having having kids, especially if you really put your time into them, and it's a chance for a kind of rebirth yourself. You noted did the chance for you to change to and then the mole
beautiful thing my boys have shown me is that you know they really did commons the world somewhat formed. I mean they've been there since there's been such a through line. So far I mean they're six and four, but they've just been
centrally the same thing like for these years.
no they try on different stuff in it. I wonder about that. All the time cause I cause, I feel like the closer I get to a life that I really want. It's like I'm getting back to being eleven again or just feel like I'm. Returning all that
I am to that kid. I was when I'm really happy- and I was just talking to my friend John unger, about this and upstate. I was up in the hudson visiting his studio and he was just so great with my boys and he kind of got the
look in the squib in his eyes, and he said well, you know I never really grew up. You know and- and I Caso said that you know he's like all children are artists. The problem is that some of us grow up yeah. You know that it's like the the flip side to the conversation. Those kids definitely remind you of that, like they might remind you of what's possible like how it's possible to be present and open, and at the same time does it do you feel that that also creates any sort of tension or pressure to
just create comp lately, without the context of whether the work will ever have commercial rye yeah. Well, you know you ve, got college funds today about and mouths literal miles to feed. I think kids just sort of like yet
is that for sure you're like I got, I'm I'm feeding. People like you buy a book, and it's like put it's literally my kids food. You know the stress of kids is just I think, mother there there are so many great books.
Right now about being a mother and a writer or mother, an artist right now I think mothers are are the prime example of how children will just suck out every bit of time in your day, if, if, if you, if they are allowed to, you know to forget, wrote writer, it was but she said to be in to be a mother.
To be constantly interrupted. An essentially to be an artist is to be uninterruptible Helen so that, but there is a great writer
wendell berry and he talks about how, if you can change,
your notion of art to you know that either
and so you never know whether to take that are not mere the writer, the
with a women writers. I know her mothers, I mean there's just this real tension. They just its writing, just requires all this time to be on available and to be a mothers to be interrupted constantly and that tension is like really there. But then you know you ve got someone like Chris, where
the cartoonist too. I know he said about being a dad, was like it just live fire on my ass, like nothing it just like he just said
You know the minute she got here just cleared up every mental problem I had about working, it just became
very clear. What I was supposed to do and- and I find that fascinate
Yet where do you find that serve continue? All you know, I think kids are simultaneously like the worse than the best thing that ever happened to you now, I'm in they just destroyer. You know everything
You know that life is gone, whoever you were before that's, but but this other thing replaces- and I also think kids like for me- I just
no, that my kids are so little right now. I know how much there taking from their mother and me right.
Now- and I just know this is a seasonal thing, like it's gonna, let up at some point. It's going to be different, they're still going to take, but like theirs to try to just be into it as much as I can right now is is the most important thing, but for me it's just like
it just reminds you of your mortality and your limited time. I mean they just wake you up to life. This is not trespass
I saw you like this? Is the shell like you're in the show dude like what are you going to do, and I think like from my last book, it was very much like okay. You know, I think it's Annie dillard
who says just spend it all every time like every time you go, the page spend it all. Just don't worry about holding back just spend it all and that's what the kids of kind of penal in this last book. I wish
like I'm, putting all down in trying to get down now
and then I worry about the next one. When it comes around there, do you feel any
desire or need
to model a certain way of being.
or living or earning a living notches, because it's what you want to do, but also, as you know, they're watching
absolutely yeah I mean that's the hardest thing about being apparent for me is the you gotta become
man that you want them to be, you know, like you, gotta, become the kind of person that you want them to be cause you're their primary model, and so that to me is the toughest think and the tat is like being the dude that
we want them to turn, entail someone com and not screaming all the time, and I am complete mass, but I do think I've
a little bit more. I was a real, cautious, I'm a very cautious person. That's why I've always hated that george lowest quote about yeah there's, no such thing as a
she created like ok. Well, then, I must not be first why he thought creative is now but whatever, but
you know my wife and I are very cautious people with were very midwestern in that sense, and now we just like we save a lot made on me
risky split decisions and stuff like that, and it isn't, it
trusting. Now that I have kids cause. I want him to be a little crazier than you know. I want to say that I am a lawyer. I do want them to unlocking oh, go the europe for a year before college pack fact you know I want them to be a little bit more, not not as cautious as me cause use. Either you see here,
how did I get in your approaching middle age and see all the time it's behind you and you're looking thing about them and also
I know what you think about climate change and the way countries going you're. Just like man. I look at these kids and, unlike just just, have fun just you know me
I think for them there. This is not original, but I want them to be privately happy and publicly useful. That's what I think
in the or what I want for myself to again we're talking about that private versa,
I cry I want to be privately happy and I won't be publicly useful. I want to be useful to the people who have gathered. You know that makes the lesson
I know there was and some of his right. I read it somewhere and when you were a kid actually yourself and probably in your teens, the elite school project, where somehow you end up reaching out to winston smith, yeah yeah,
which of what for for those who don't know who that is kind of a legendary guy who that is, and what that interaction, how that shaped it because I think it kind of ties into this conversation. So when I was thirteen or fourteen
you know, green. There was the biggest ban that ever and especially if you're flank, small town, ohio, you know you could go to sam goody and by duty.
but then, when I saw me, I came out of the follow up to duty. No green day did the typical,
there are a lot of bands. Do a la bands at that time that got big dead nirvana did the same thing. They had like their hit pop record and then they did their dark like edgy record, so insomniac came out and
like really darken songs were nastier and louder and then the album art was.
Is this insane? I didn't even know it was. I thought it was a painting or something, but it was essentially it was this collage art where a guy named winston smith did it and it was, it was thirties and forties magazine, illustrations they caught out and collaged into these sort of hieronymus bosch type.
Collage is just these amazing works and you know later on and I found out you know he designed the dead kennedys logo he's like a seminal seventies, punk eighties. Punk kind of like legendary san francisco, collage or
As so I had an art assignment in middle school. You were supposed to write to an artist. You admired and asked them questions about their work and most kids like didn't, have a favorite artists. They had to like pick it out of
you know my teacher had like a who's who or whatever,
I still alive his error, like yours, pottered member, that right to, but then
was like, I got a right to winston smith, because I just wanna come obsessed with this work, and this is
Pre internet, like this, is sort of dial up internet era, so like getting a mailing address that was like how do I get a mailing address for this person, so my dad's, the only person I knew with dial up with internet and email account.
So I found the gallery like ya,
food, or whatever causes pre guph until I like fire.
the gallery that shows of his stuff in san francisco and found the curators email was
sure how email worked at the time, and every time I went to my dad's office, I would just say
This gallery are another email until finally shiro back to manage to stop bugging me. Here's winston addressed
and so then I went home and I found out of europe like microsoft. Works like
it wasn't around. So microsoft works. Had this ransom note fought right.
I never used it if I typed out this like letter that looked like a ransom note and like sent it off to him and it was it. Was this really,
I mean it was the the audacity of youth. You know I was asking him these questions about his work and then I liked that a p s, hey here's, an idea for a piece you might want to do. You know my band could really use
some of them are harder. You know just this really callow letter and I sent it off and like nothing happened, you know two months went by and I was like
I forgot it and then one day this envelope came this mail, this gigantic manila envelope, and it was, I had a fourteen page hand written letter from winston smith in it, and he said all these and a bunch of his work. He had photocopied and sent to me and the stuff he sat in. It was pretty much what you
expect, like us, subversive punk, rock artists to saying owning question authority, don't trust the man and all that stuff, but then he also had this really great advice. He was like
If I had known, I would be a law around this, the sly, my taken bear care myself, so he was leg just keep. Instead
is, unlike don't abuse. Alcohol handier drugs there'll be play a time for that later space. So, but he was lake. It was the first letter, this letter
it changed my life because I'm in the middle of a current, you know I'm growing up and outside circleville and like I'm, I have no, I don't know any writers, I don't know any artists and here's. This guy wrote back to me and was like,
hand and was leg yeah. I came from this hick town too
hmm that's who I am now like, but you know you should don't don't like blow up your life or anything like go ahead and get good grades and stick with it and make your art. You know it was just like the best soundest advice. So then, what happened is like years and years pass and I sent a couple more letters, but we like kind of lost touch.
Well. When I was in tour in San francisco, I found out, he was having us open studios recently know this was in two thousand and twelve when still like an artist came and dumb. I was in north beach at this place called golden boy pizza, and I was sort of like members
seems like the kind of neighbourhood the winston would hang out and ensure enough like his studio round the corner and north beach, and I want to
studio and I opened the door and lake
people in there and him and I sort of walked up to.
I was like hey, MR smith. I don't know. If you remember me, I wrote you this letter when I was thirteen and, like you wrote me, this wonderful, lower back and blah blah blah was kind of freaking out. You know meeting him. He said,
then it's like I didn't know you were going to be in town. He was so sweet and- and he said you know he turned to the sky said. This is tray and trey sticks his hand and says: hey, I'm tray. I play drums and I'm like no crappy blue drums you're the drummer from
green day, so I was like this amazing day. You know cause. I I and Winston said. Oh, hey come back, come back, what are you doing this weekend
whenever you want. Maybe do you know he's they come back tomorrow. I've got something to show you as her okay, so I
back the next day and we went out to sardinia, which, in north beached the town at time. Place came back to estonia,
is yeah. I want to show you these things impulse out this binder and inside are these things called anti poems that he tried and what he did as he took this paper.
Back book. Any made like boxes
and a few words and then covered the rest with his collage work. It looks pretty much identical to my newspaper blackout, poems, which are, I take an article from the new york times and I blackout most of the words and just leave some of them behind it looks like
the cia did haiku or the mueller report. You know it's just like this redacted poetry and it turns out that he had read in the eighties. He had read this book by Tom Phillips called a whom you met
which is really influence on my own work. So like not only did we share this connection
through the letter, he had also attempted similar work as we had scared influences.
as a so is this really cosmic sort of crazy thing and our friends, you know now when I'm in San francisco, I try to like see, em and and hang out now where, like you know, I know him really he's met my kids they're, you know he's almost like grandpa winston
something we fell out so buddy, it's odd now, because I find myself in this position where, with the internet
just so easily of it. I had to sort of do a lot of work as a kid to find him and ride him. This latter,
and he did me an enormous generosity of sending went back. But now, in this instance, instantaneous moment where, like anybody can find me in a one, can talk to me
realized recently that that opportunity to have a sort of moment like that is really difficult, because so that's what I'm trying to do in the box there, like the books now are my
version of winston ladder and demi that that was exactly well. My curiosity was observed, likely is: are these essentially your waited to turn around and and b that role but kind of to mass
hundreds of people, I think so, and I I only thought about this. You know
years ago, but I realized that still like an artist is essentially exactly what winston said in his letter to me I mean he is even like its lays out for people how a collage like approach to our works the best, but it also is, is it
very, not traditional book, but it's a very sensible book is says things like take care of yourself. You know, don't ruin yourself for your art like have a decent in o b b
regular and orderly in your life seek be violent and original in your work has flow barriers at unesco. Steel, like an artist, essentially contains that message that winston
gave to me and its essentially a book that gives you permission. I think that's really what people get from is like
you can be an art like you can do this. It's just a takes work, and so I I'd now I look at these books and I'm like oh there, like winston letter, it's just for strangers there, it's like gum, yet there listen
permissions lips slips, promotion that permission and I'm worried about for a long time cause I was like people said all you like gave me permission. I was like want it's a weird:
Is he here? There now had an hour bathroom passes. You know
permission when you talk about, but I get it now. I got
the other. A couple years ago I went to
show by Nina catch dora, she's a sort of conceptualize really funny artist, and I was there
you're in the show- and I realized oh she's, give
me permission like me being in the show, is giving me permit
centre can to use humour in real art, and I got it. Finally, what people were saying about me giving them permission in the books, because I felt like that Nina catch dorian show gave me permission in the sense to do work that was more natural to me. Their winded life start getting so complicated. Buying a home, complicated home finances, certainly not a walk in the park. Raising kids, she hath it's a lot.
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insurance doesn't have to be like a good neighbour state farmers. There caller go gotta state farm dot com for a quote today: hey it's Jonathan, from good low project. If you are in your authorities, authorities with friends too busy to join you on a vacation, you have to check out flashback.
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and an art in in in all three books. You know, and- and the latest keep going on- which I know it's interesting to me- cause to the latest. I've heard, as I've heard you describe as like the first half is to stop the bleeding and the second houses to help heal yeah yeah, I yeah. So I just felt like this book is, is sort of a corrective. It's it's like a first aid kit, the first half of the book, I think, is sort of about recapturing the right pace. Recapturing your attention. Sort of you know getting back on the path and then the second half is about having a giant like a broader view of like what your life is going to be from here on out and sort of beginning the healing process. So it is like
stop the bleeding and then start to heal there, and I guess when I hear that you don't like the believing like this, there are so many levels that are even want to go into that rabbit, hole I dunno and that there was actually at. I mean there there's so many things wear out like you wanted your dog hear this, but it would basically just been one massive dog infoprint. There's one little like
kind of fun note here with words yeah I'll shoot. You, oh yeah terrain. It's quick little thing. It just says it's I get to do lesson and clearly you are a huge fan of les, as as anyone who's read your style as you know, but this really resonated with mallory the two guys it says to do. Leave money on the table forget to take things to the next level. Let the low hanging fruit fall,
off and rod. I just you know I really wanted to reduce in our just so
Train now to think about our work and market terminology exists. He knew I wanted this book to let people now like it's ok to not do things for money. I mean it seems like such a plain, stupid message, but we're at this point in our like to say: hey, it's ok than not do things for profit is almost like this. You know, and this economy in this like hustle mentality. It's almost like it's almost like ito forward thinking or something I mean it
but it's also like. I truly believe that part of my work is just taking old ideas and resurrecting them. You know you figure out what you hate my culture right now and then you just go back and dig something up and like present, it
If the people again and they're, like oh yeah, that's right, we used to do you know we used to have hobbies. We didn't have side. Hustles,
we had hobbies, and you know we used to do things for fun stuff like that. So I'm just I just really, but you know a lot of this stuff. His notes to myself, you know this is a book I wrote cause. I
be that yeah, it's not like you're preaching from on high, were like hey that adopt, I mean you know, and I I really think like I anytime someone calls me a guru or something like something awful like that. I just cringe
as so much of what my work is, is it's me figuring, stuff out and then packaging it for other people like it's, like all of my books. Are the residue of me trying to figure this stuff out for myself.
in the same way they think once the latter was it was like this is what I've been through. This is why I have learned- and you know this is what I figured out from you know. It's not like it's not from this position. Like I've been to the mountain. Let me
give you these stone tablets, even though they are ten commandments good enough for moses good enough for me, but yeah, I just I just really I why, as much as I can, as I continue in my career, to be a teacher but remained a student basically, I want
from my box to have, I want people reading them to feel like this dude struggles with stuff too. It's not like he's just some row.
spiritual leader, whose lack figured it
now. We all sit at his feet make it, though you know I'm in the track, like I'm workin, on the staff to I'm trying to figure this out.
And that's just the only way I can possibly do these somewhat prescriptive books. You know they're, like a prescription. You know, like your bleed, yeah right. It's almost like you're right,
the script for yourself, first yeah diamond old: either way. Maybe this I'll have you got there?
this helped me, maybe I just have confidence that you know if it helps
He then maybe it'll help a tiny. You know just population wise therapy, readers that helps but yeah. I just I really. I need this. I needed to write this cause. I needed to read it there. Do you think, there's something unique to.
When you look at the the so many different ways that people express themselves creatively with painting music whenever it maybe do you think that particular orientation is unique to writers?
could be so many writers are readers. First, you know it's pretty impossible to be a decent writer without being a great reader first, but I think it's also
impossible would be a good musician, listen to music. I do think that it's an ethos and a science and that I am a fan, I really think of myself as a fan. First, I am really someone who loves this stuff. I mean I am a great. Can you know people ask me sometimes like how much do you consume versus create and first of all, it's pretty much the
im input output for me, but I would say: oh my god at least five to one hi amanda yeah on the consumption side. I mean cause you gotta fill up in order to where you know you gotta fill up the well in order to pull the water out. You know, so I don't,
now. I do wonder, though I mean I'm just wired. That way you know I just I think that sir
liberating the work of others is always gonna, be part of my work. Not style was part of my
where it started out, and I think they'll continue to be part of my work, just how I'm wired interesting to write, because if, if he goes to winston smith, like his approach was know, he it was a lot of collage work. He was a lot of the stuff that was greeted by other people, yeah and putting them together and it in like away creating something new and simultaneously celebrating. That said,
in the tracer through line tight end. To do that, you have to be a great student of the form like you have to collect a bunch of stuff. You have to look back to the past. Winston would send me these wonderful ads from some of the magazines they cut. These illustrations out, like these old ads from the forties and fifties there. There was one ad. They said
may, where there was a cop pointing at the camera, and he was saying you know you can always tell a troublemaker by the way he looks, and it was an ad for like men's where. But it was like this cop, pointing at both camera saying you know you can tell how kid and it was funny cause
I think burroughs used to write about how. Well, if you look like a square, you can get away with anything. You know, that's the white man's privilege, of course, but, like you know, I I remember him sending me this gray gray ad,
You know, so he was know what was going on back then too, but yeah I'm the same way like I just I just I love being a student. I just love learning there, that's what,
want to do and- and I mean one of my favorite weekly reads- is your newsletter. Thank you I have to make. I have to
tomorrow's tonight laugh, I won't keep it know now, but I'm, but if I may, I bring it up simply because it's a reflection of the vast volume of work from
all over the place that you consume nearly from there for those who never seen it definitely subscribe to it. But you know it's sort of like the weekly and excerpts and last of just fascinating cool in
doing things to explore in nearly every domain from film music to writing to you name. It is like it's in there and but what
also is is it's said it's a window into into who you are, how you spend your time and what you find interesting
the diary, it's a weekly diarrhea and I think, that's what's really fun to me about the newsletter form as well
Newsletter. Now is much more what my blog was. My first are now. It was like a bunch of stuff that was in two and I want to share with other people, and I said
the newsletters, a very it was like a mark employ
No, I was like a wild. Do this new union newsletter and I'll get it ruins email and though I have something to say, all sought to amend this newsletter and a sort of start out tat way, but over time it's become like one of my favorite things that do because its ritual eyes
oh and it's a way for me to sort of look back on my week and be like. Where have you been this week in so it's tough like this week cause I haven't cracked a book. I've been traveling with my family, so it's like. Well what do I tell people? What do I show people this week and I'm like well just tell people you haven't cracked,
what this week heres a list of that you made back now. You know what I mean in and there's a sort of. Like truth, I try to be really truthful
with the newsletter I dont linked to things I haven't read. You know cause there's a lot of people. You can sort of the end. They do a service
I know there's a lot of people that are ok. Here's the productivity articles from this week and like they're, has it's place but like for me. I just I just
linked to stuff. I don't really like an outcast me. Flower sometimes too cause
people who don't like to go along on the weird ride, but those aren't the people. I want hanging out there. You know, which I think kind of start to bring us it's full circle and in a certain way you can about your current bookkeeping time as you wrap it up and with a chapter that you call plant your garden. Yeah taught me that this event, where why why why did this have to be
and what is what's it about? Well, it was sort of inspired by two things: one, it's a complete lift from thoreau. I mean this is the great insight from reading through, as you realize, he was the great chronicler of the seasons, the the great american chronicler of the seasons,
when you read, throws journal
the way I read it, which is. I read and I read the days he wrote
the day he wrote them so I may first I read all the may first entries in the little abridged diary I have of his and when you read this,
you realize he's he repeats himself all the time,
you'll read an entry from eighteen, fifty one and all echo an entry from like eighteen, forty four, where I'm making up these dates. You know but but he like repeats himself constantly and he's a great chronicler of the
zones- and he says you know, on the goal of life for throw- was to recognise
what season you're in and live accordingly, and so in spring time you operate like it's spring and winter, you you know, and so in the in the book. I it's a lift from thrill, but it's also gardening presented itself as a metaphor and lots of people use gardening as a different metaphor, but watching my wife in the garden was was because I'm not a gardener myself, but I would watch my wife in the garden.
working and gardening became this metaphor that to me seemed essentially the opposite of so much of what were pushed to do right now, because gardening is
bout, creating rich environments in which plants can thrive.
and so ass and got neck, has written a book about the gardener versus the carpenter and thinking about yourself with apparent as a gardener. But then I found out all my musicians. Therein
look up to a lot of them. Talk about gardening, gardenings craft were called their studio and electronic garden prince wrote, roadhouse garden, which is one of his great. Besides, you know this is the
place where ideas grow or isn't emotions grow yeah. This is the place where emotions grow. Twenty four tracks all in a row and he was talking about his mixing desk and thinking about that as a guard. So for me the big message was every day you get is a sort of seed that you can
with your effort and these seeds blossom in the something on down the road and that's how the sort of thing about that's. How I want to think about my career now is that I am plan.
in the seeds, and they will grow into something over time and part of my job is to know what season I'm in and act accordingly and to be able to have that sort of long term. You know cause, I wouldn't do this forever. You know until I fall over like
hockney says you. I wanna work until I fall over. I just had to have this sort of way of thinking
the way it is I do and and for me the idea that creativity has seasons- sometimes it's winter, sometimes spraying, and you just have to be patient and plant your seeds and gross and grow there. That was just really am
and to me to end on that note that everyone is so much there and it almost it gives you the freedom to think long term and the forgiveness to be where you are
yeah. I mean just to be where you are to wherever season your air to accept that entered to stay the course
Why? Because I know now, when its winter, for me some store up time to read to take in fat now
you know and then, and then, when it's harvest time, then he re piazza now eyes and I wonder you know
I always I sort of wonder you know my grandfather was a farmer and lost the farm in the eighties, and I was wondering like do we?
Are there unless lives than us based our circumstances?
and I never know about that thing. But you know yeah here I was growing up in the cornfield and all I wanted to do was make art, and then here I have this book. That is about growing things,
so I'd ignored farming all those years, those in the middle of a cornfield and now-
using gardening. As a metaphor, right, that's pretty much. Life worry arriving, stayed with me in whether through osmosis most sir conscious there or just age right,
I think it's just a it's just the accumulation of years and feels like a good place for us to come full circle tears as we sit here in this container of good life project. If I offer up the phrase
to live a good life. What comes up? Oh man just to disturb good life just to just to plant each day
where, in order to use it up just to use up today
the ring it out. You know, and I just I just you know,
my agent he's always like just be a match
I am not. I just be a mench, you know a human being, as they say in the apartment, just to the to to be as human as you can just to to be good and be kind, and I think about kindness, a lot now, especially as the
that? Just to try to I? I worry a lot less now about being a great artist, a lot more about being a decent human being that makes art cause. I just think the world these bear human beings.
Necessarily need bear artists. Thank you. Thank you.
thank you so much for listening, and thanks also to our fantastic tasks, who helped make this show possible. You can check them out in the links we have included, intraday show notes and while you're at it, if you ve ever ask yourself what should I do with my life? We have
He did a really cool online assessment that will help. You discover the source code for the work that you're here to do. You can find it at sparc, a type dot com, that's s, p, a r K, e t, Y p, e dot com or just click. The link
in the shadows and, of course, if you haven't already done so, be sure to click on the subscribe button in your listening app. So you never miss an episode and then share and share the love. If there's something that you've heard in this episode, that you would love to turn into a conversation, share it with people and have that conversation, because when I do
it's become conversations that lead to action? That's when real change takes hold, see you next time
Transcript generated on 2023-06-26.