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Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative In Good Times And Bad by Austin Kleon

I remember finding this book – Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative In Good Times And Ba, by Austin Kleon, right at the beginning of the pandemic. Someone I was coaching at that time had recommended it to me. I had read his other book – Steal Like An Artist, and loved that. You can find my review of that book here.

What I loved about this book, at its core, is about setting yourself up to nurture and create an environment so your creativity will thrive. And how hard it is to thrive when you’re not nurturing your creative side.

Kleon gives you so much terrific, inspiring, and practical advice about how to be and stay creative no matter what’s happening in your own world or in the outer world.

When I picked up this book, it was about the same time I had just started a course on creativity and writing with Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. I was already priming myself to cultivate my creativity, and everything I learned from Kleon was just icing on the cake that enhanced my course with Cameron.

Cultivating your creativity no matter what’s happening around you is something you can learn and practice diligently. And it truly helps.

I was definitely suffering at home all alone and no travel for two years. I needed something to keep me focused on keeping me sane. I needed a plan and vision to stay happy and healthy and keep on loving my work.  It was tough, yet my love for books and actually putting what I learn is critical for my sanity and success. 

I love books like Keep Going that give you not only the tools. It also gives you inspiration, strategies, and so much support, like an instant hug. 

A couple of core ideas: Keep your creative space uncluttered, Get some fresh air – take a walk, yes you can change your mind any time you like, “Make Gifts,” and “Build a Bliss Station.” Read on for more!

A Book Summary to Inspire You To Read It!

Quick Summary
This is a short and inspiring book that’s only a 6×6 trim size. It’s so versatile you can easily carry it in your bag and refer to it often. One of the other things I love is that Kleon is also a visual artist, and it’s filled with word art and other inspiring graphics. If you’ve read his first book – Steal Like An Artist, it’s about finding your creative voice and bringing your ideas to life. This book is about how to cultivate your craft, creating positive routines and habits to pave the way for your creativity and ingenuity to appear and thrive. It’s about persistence, surrounding yourself with like-minded people to give you feedback and help you improve. And it’s about staying open and trying new things. 

Who Ought to Read this Book and Why:
This book is for artists, writers, and other creatives who want inspiration, strategies, and help with creating routines to create sustainability for your craft. He shares with you many ideas about how to establish lasting creative habits and practical advice to show up each day. It’s also for anyone who’s facing rejection or struggling with perfection or is a starter and not a finisher of projects. Also, if you’re feeling discouraged about your work, you will get the perfect pep talk and pick-me-up just for you. If you’re longing for motivation to continue your passion and how to show up each day, then you gotta grab this book pronto!

Things You Will Discover:

You need to know that, yes, some of these concepts you may have heard before. Yet, he gives such a refreshing take on them. I don’t want you to put off getting this book because you might think it’s the same stuff as other creative books. I assure you, it is not. Get the book!

Here are the 11 Core ideas (and table of contents) Austin Kleon lists in Keep Going:

Intro: I Wrote This Book because I needed to Read It

  1. Every Day is Groundhog Day
  2. Build a Bliss Station
  3. Forget The Noun, Do The Verb
  4. Make Gifts
  5. The Ordinary +Extra Attention= The Extraordinary
  6. Slay The Art Monsters
  7. You are Allowed to Change Your Mind
  8. When In Doubt, Tidy Up
  9. Demons Hate Fresh Air
  10. Plant Your Garden

Some deeper concepts: 

Embrace The Journey Over the Destination: It’s much better to focus on the process of creativity and showing up each day. Looking at your project as increments of success. Taking small incremental steps. Celebrate each stage, not just the end result. All the while, you’re creating important habits, routines, and sustainability for your creativity.

Creativity Is Not Just An Individual Sport: Kleon stresses the importance of finding or creating your own supportive community. And the best part is being generous by exchanging real feedback so you can all help and support each other. I LOVE This!

Beginner’s Mindset: This one is my total fave and one of my “go-to’s” ALL the time. Even though I’d done things in the past, it’s about maintaining my humility, being incredibly open to learning new ways of doing things, and being willing to try new things. Sometimes that’s really hard for me. Yet when I let go of my knowledge of something, I can truly appreciate someone else’s perspective, and I usually learn something really cool. 

Develop Resilience For Any Feedback: This one is not for the weary. It’s about building up your tolerance for others’ criticism. When you can do that, it helps you grow. It’s about being compassionate with yourself for your mistakes. And also building a bit of armor for other criticism, warranted or not. A lot of times, it’s not even about you. It’s their own frustration with themselves. It’s always good to be open for feedback and no “yeah but” when you ask for it and someone takes the time to give it to you. Open your ears, and simply close your mouth. 🙂

Obstacles Are Part of The Journey: Remember, it’s not ever about the destination. It’s about the journey, the path that you’re on. Anything that comes your way is part of your life lessons and maybe even why you’re here in this lifetime. It’s about your life’s journey with its ups and downs and viewing it as your lessons of growth and strength. Then use it in your creativity, whatever that looks like to you. 

Your creativity is not just fleeting. It’s a lifelong endeavor. It’s imperfection, and lessons require community, perseverance, and a willingness to learn and grow from whatever appears on your path. It’s about focusing on process over product and persistence despite any pitfalls.

Inspiring Book Quotes:

“Creativity is about connections, and connections are not made by siloing everything off into its own space. New ideas are formed by interesting juxtapositions, and interesting juxtapositions happen when things are out of place.”

About Not Going Insane:
Relying on craft and routine is a lot less sexy than being an artistic genius. But it is an excellent strategy for not going insane.” —Christoph Niemann”

The Only Control You Really Have Is:
“We have so little control over our lives. The only thing we can really control is what we spend our days on.”

Art Thrives On This:
“To be on brand is to be 100% certain of who you are and what you do, and certainly, in art and in life, is not only completely overrated, it is also a roadblock to discovery. Uncertainty is the very thing that art thrives on.”

What Are You Paying Attention To?
“If you want to change your life, change what you pay attention to. “We give things meaning by paying attention to them,” Jessa Crispin writes, “and so moving your attention from one thing to another can absolutely change your future.” “Attention is the most basic form of love,” wrote John Tarrant. When you pay attention to your life, it not only provides you with the material for your art, it also helps you fall in love with your life.”

It’s Not About Being Rich & Famous:
“I don’t want to know how a thirty-year-old became rich and famous; I want to hear how an eighty-year-old spent her life in obscurity, kept making art and lived a happy life. I want to know how Bill Cunningham jumped on his bicycle every day and rode around New York taking photos in his eighties. I want to know how Joan Rivers was able to tell jokes up until the very end. I want to know how, in his nineties, Pablo Casals still got up every morning and practiced his cello.”

It’s About Today:
“Yesterday’s over, tomorrow may never come, there’s just today and what you can do with it.”

Let Go Of This:
“Let go of the thing that you’re trying to be (the noun), and focus on the actual work you need to be doing (the verb).”

Do This When You’re Stuck:
“When I’m stuck in the morning, and I don’t know what to write about in my diary, I’ll modify the pros-and-cons list. I’ll draw a line down the middle of the page, and in one column, I’ll list what I’m thankful for, and in the other column, I’ll write down what I need help with. It’s a paper prayer.””

Worry Less About Getting Things Done:
“Whenever life gets overwhelming, go back to chapter one of this book and think about your days. Try your best to fill them in ways that get you a little closer to where you want to be. Go easy on yourself and take your time. Worry less about getting things done. Worry more about things worth doing. Worry less about being a great artist. Worry more about being a good human being who makes art. Worry less about making a mark. Worry more about leaving things better than you found them.”

Put Down The Phone:
“The phone gives us a lot, but it takes away three key elements of discovery: loneliness, uncertainty, and boredom. Those have always been where creative ideas come from.” —Lynda Barry”

Routines Do This:
“Rather than restricting your freedom, a routine gives you freedom by protecting you from the ups and downs of life and helping you take advantage of your limited time, energy, and talent.”

About the Author: – Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon is the New York Times bestselling author of a trilogy of illustrated books about creativity in the digital age: Steal Like An Artist, Show Your Work!, and Keep Going. He’s also the author of Newspaper Blackout, a collection of poems made by redacting the newspaper with a permanent marker. His books have been translated into dozens of languages and have sold over a million copies worldwide. He’s been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, PBS Newshour, and in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. New York Magazine called his work “brilliant,” The Atlantic called him “positively one of the most interesting people on the Internet,” and The New Yorker said his poems “resurrect the newspaper when everybody else is declaring it dead.” He speaks 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 lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and sons. Visit him online 

Where I Would Recommend Getting Your Copy:
Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by Austin Kleon  

Other Books by Kleon
Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered 

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon 

Other Books I’d Recommend: 

“Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert 

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Put Your Heart Where Your Ass Wants to Be by Steven Pressfield

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use it for Life by Twyla Thorp

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron 

Soulfully Yours,

Shannon McCaffery

Shannon McCaffery

Strategic Marketing Coach & Consultant

Previous Book Review

Keep Going By Austin Kleon

Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative In Good Times And Bad by Austin Kleon


Hey there, I'm Shannon! Being a voracious reader and passionate about learning, I started this site in the hopes of sharing my thoughts and my love of inspiring nonfiction books that can help you. It's kind of like Buddha meets business. I truly hope you enjoy!

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