Keep Going

2021, Aug 23

Keep Going by Austin Kleon is a book I admire very much. The author has done what I intend to do in this blog. The book is small. No, it is compact. A lot of topics crammed into one. Ten bullet points listed on the back of the book, discussed one-by-one in the chapters inside. It is concise and to the point. I enjoyed it very much. It is one of those books that you can randomly pick a chapter and start reading and re-reading. If you are considering book as a birthday gift for your friend, look no further. This is a perfectly good candidate. Did I already mention that the book coveres ten topics?

1. Every day is GROUNDHOG DAY

If you are an Instagram Reels addict like me 🙈, then you are familiar with the song "I am vacation every single day cuz I love my occupation". Kleon says that every profession has monotonous days. Even creative people like cartoonists, painters, content creators deal with it. You HAVE to get comfortable with it. Having a routine helps to keep going despite the monotony.


You need to set a dedicated space and dedicated time for your work. Disconnect from the world and give your work full concentration it deserves. No notifications. Some music, maybe. I have tried the Pomodoro technique and found it working for me. I have an office space (just a table and a chair, nothing fancy) where I work. I sit at that chair and my work mode begins.

3. Forget the noun, do the VERB

How many times do we cling on to the title or the position at office? Do we really care how good our work is as long as we are the CEO or CTO of something? Kleon says, the titles don't matter. Work does. Stay playful. Do the work you like. Do not wait for the tile to be bestowed on you.

4. Make GIFTS

A line from the book that struck me was "We used to have hobbies. Now we have side hustles". If your friend makes beautiful cakes, do you compliment by saying, "you could start a bakery!"? Why do we impose that our hobbies make money for us? Why can we not excel at something just for the pleasure of it? Why do we always need to take things to the next level? Why do we care so much for numbers? Who are you trying to impress? This hit home. Kleon suggests that keep atleast a tiny bit of your work off the market. Make gifts. Gift your work to your family, your friends, to the world. Do not put a price tag on it.

5. The ordinary + extra attention = THE EXTRAORDINARY

Are you still saying, "If only I had _ _ _, then I would have _ _ _"? Kleon says, you have everthing you need. Just pay attention and start. Also, pay attention to what you pay attention to. If you want to understand yourself or define yourself, then list the things you pay attention to. That's how powerful your attention is. So, beware of the things you make mental space for. That is why they say gratitude journaling works in self improvement. But just writing them is not enough. Read them. Re-read them. Scroll through your photos in your phone. See how far you have come.

6. Slay the ART MONSTERS

Throughout history, we find that artists come in all shapes - kind, cruel, polite, bad-mouthed, sweet, jerks. Your work is supposed make make life better. If the result of your work or the process of it is harming anyone (including yourself), then it is not worth it. Kleon is of the opinion that we do not need more artists in the world. We need more decent human beings. Being a great artist, inventor or creator is not an excuse for being a jerk.

7. You are allowed to CHANGE YOUR MIND

If a politician changes his mind publicly it is seen as a weakness. Social media has made us all brands today (the term "personal branding" might be familiar to you). Anything you do out of the way is considers "off brand". Be kind to yourself. Give yourself space to explore and find new philosophies in life. Spending all your time with "like minded" people can hinder this process. Instead, spend time with "like hearted" people. These are the people who make you "think" (as opposed to "react"). These people are kind, caring and are good listeners. Take ideas that agrees with you and leave the rest.

8. When in doubt, TIDY UP

Have you come across Maria Kondo's show on Netflix? I found it extremely interesting. I want to read her book "The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up" one day. Kleon is sceptical whether her philosophy fits artistic/creative work. But like me, he likes the geneal idea. He thinks that a too-much-organised space will hinder any probability finding ideas in unusual places. But if you clutter too much, you won't find the tools when you require them and it will break your flow of thoughts. Kleon says, "When in doubt, tidy up". Not "tidy up always". In extension, he says, "Sleep tidies up the brain".

9. Demons hate FRESH AIR

Kleon swears that walking is therapeutic. Many artists find their best ideas while walking aimlessly. He suggests to unplug from the TV and phones to escape from the fear and misinformation they infest. Watching the world through the screens makes the world seem unreal. Go outside and look for yourself.

10. Plant your GARDEN

Creativity is not a constant. It ebbs and flows. You have to watch the seasons of your creativity and be patient in the off-seasons. Our lives are like seasons. Some of us blossom at a young age while other blossom at old age. But what blooms fast also withers fast. Do not look for inspiration in the "30 under 30" list. Look for inspiration in the people at their 60s, 70s and 80s, who are still strong and go about their purpose. (Remember Ikigai?).

How we spend our day is of course how we spend our life - Annie Dillard