Steal Like an Artist

While I was spending some time dizzy this weekend for tax purposes, I stole about half an hour to read a book called Steal Like an Artist. The book is an fast read and lays out several ideas for the creative in a whimsical way, with lots of little drawings and goofy pictures to back up author Austin Kleon‘s points. Thanks to Dana for lending it to me after dinner on Saturday. It was exactly what I needed.


I would recommend this book as a quick refresher for artists of all sorts. It’s easy to get lost in the world of shoulds in art. For example, I quit making costumes to write. This book would advise me not to do that. It assumes that since I have a couple of passions, I need the other art as well to be whole. The connection between the two kinds of art? Me.

Another snippet I found very interesting was an idea that I played with a couple of years back: enjoy your obscurity. You will never get this freedom back when you are less obscure. Makes sense to me.

Kleon’s focus on the idea of doing art, steadily and well, is worth remembering. The art itself, the learning of the craft and the success of the work, that should be the focus. Get used to no. Focus on making the work and believe that it takes a long time for the work to be good enough (like maybe 10,000 hours? 🙂 ). That’s where your head should be.

All of these are good things to remember. There’s more. You should read the book.

Blue Zone!

Fighting the medical hydra: go in for one appointment, come out with 4 more! Yesterday, I had an appointment to check on my ringworm (going into month 5.) While it looks improved, I am now off to a dermatologist because it is long lived. While at the doc’s we talked about my motion sickness, and we’re sure my inner ear trouble from ’07 is staging a comeback, so I’m off to ENT. And, because I haven’t been eating much these last days, it’s back to the tummy doc for me, because of the resultant troubles. After all 3 of these appointments with specialists, I’m back to Dr. Banks.

In addition, yesterday I had my annual eye check up, so new glasses soon and no weirdness there.

But these are all minor, annoying problems. I’m back at work with some anti-dizziness pills and some new tummy meds to bolster the old tummy meds. It’s all good.

These antics have left me little time for writing the last two days. I have shipped O-Taga-San back out, but that’s about the extent of my activities. I plan to write for a while this afternoon.


At work, the wellness program abounds. Cedar Rapids has recently become a Blue Zones City. Go ahead and poke around on the Internet about Blue Zones. The original book, written by Dan Buettner, identifies 9 characteristics shared by centarians and long lived people around the world. The 9 might surprise you. Of course, I struggle with weight and health, but every time I see something like this, I wonder if we’re not doing it all wrong in this country. More on that another time.

The one that struck me the most, besides the nice one about drinking wine, is that a lot of these seem geared toward being happy and belonging. Bryon and I are going to try to have at least one social interaction with friends a weekend now. That means I’m gonna need to be an even better planner about my writing time.

And, I’ve got to go teach, but one of the things that struck me about the Power 9 is this: is writing a happy life? We spend a lot of time in negativity and alone. YET we value art and need it to survive. More reading I think is in order. Stay tuned for more meta.

Meanwhile, I leave you with these questions: Can the artist produce art in a community? In what ways is the artistic life happy and satisfying? In what ways can/should the artistic life be improved?

I look forward to your input.

(Motion) Sickness

I woke up this morning feeling a little odd, but figuring I could soldier on. My logic was impeccable: if this was the beginning of a larger illness, I needed to get in today when I felt half way okay. If this was as bad as it got, I could work.

Then I drove myself to work, and the rest, as they say, is history.

So I am back home now, off the roads, which is good, because when I am ill I drive like your grandmother. Maybe not YOUR grandmother, but you know, distracted, puttering along about 45 miles an hour.

I could really have used those 5 office hours today. I’m needing to see the light at the end of the backed up email pile. And I’m missing about 4 hours of class. On the plus side, I’m not spreading illness. The CDC would be so proud.

All right. So time for the mindless zombie-dom of the sick day. I’ll see you on the other side.

American Beauty


I put off watching American Beauty for some time. The movie is marketed primarily as a mid-life crisis movie. Kevin Spacey’s character Lester Burnham becomes infatuated with one of his daughter Jane’s best friends. Always, my alarm bells go off at this point. You know, middle-aged man, teen-aged girl, don’t really need to be seeing a film like that.

Finally, my Netflix queue roled around to American Beauty, and I figured they could send it and if it didn’t work out for me, I’d stop watching it.

So, it’s like this. American Beauty is exactly what it says, but it’s a lot more than that as well. This is not a happy film. You shouldn’t watch this film at all unless you are willing to see dysfunction at its worst in two, potentially three families.

Lester is the bright spot in this nihilistic universe. Let me explain.

Continue reading “American Beauty”