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We all need mentors. People who teach us what we need to know, or remind us of things we have buried deep.
But mentors don't have to be physically present to teach us great truth and to help us change our lives. I have found amazing mentors in books and on blogs, as well as in real life, and one of my consistent mentors is Seth Godin.
His latest book, The Icarus Deception was created as the result of a Kickstarter campaign, which I (proudly) helped to fund as one of his Tribe. Here are some of the things I have learned in just 24 hours of its arriving on my doorstep.
The Icarus Deception: Make Great Art
Many of the corners of the book are turned over already and I have pages of notes in my Moleskine, but here are just a few of the insights I found useful. I'm not going to add my commentary, I'll leave it to you to interpret, but I'd love to hear your reactions in the comments.
- “Artists are people who make art. Art is not a gene or a specific talent … Art is the unique work of a human being, work that touches another … Art is who we are and what we do and what we need. Art isn't a result; it's a journey. The challenge of our time is to find a journey worthy of your heart and your soul.“
- “Creating art is a habit, one that we practice daily or hourly until we get good at it … Art isn't about the rush of victory that comes from being picked. Nor does it involve compliance. Art in the post-industrial age is a lifelong habit, a stepwise process that incrementally allows us to create more art.”
- “Doing a good job for a fair price is no longer sufficient to guarantee success. Good work is easier to find than ever before. What matters now: Trust, Permission, Remarkability, Leadership, Stories that spread, Humanity: connection, compassion and humility.”
- “Our cultural instinct is to wait to get picked. To seek out the permission, authority and safety that come from a publisher … who says, “I pick you.” Once you reject that impulse and realize that no one is going to select you … then you can actually get to work … No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.“
- “The joy of art is particularly sweet … because it carries with it the threat of rejection, of failure, and of missed connections. It's precisely the high-wire act of “this might not work” that makes original art worth doing.”
This book is useful for writers, but I would also urge parents to read it in order to understand the world your children are growing up in.
“The industrial age, the one that established our schooling, our workday, our economy, and our expectations, is dying. It's dying faster than most of us expected, and it's causing plenty of pain, indecision and fear as it goes.”
The industrial world is disappearing. The old world of standardized exams, tick-box education and guaranteed jobs won't be there for much longer, and people need to be creative to survive the future. But more than that, life's too short to spend it doing something that isn't rewarding. So aim to thrive and not just survive.
I spent 13 years as an IT consultant, a miserable cubicle worker, rewarding myself with sugar and alcohol in order to make it through each day. In September 2011, I finally broke out of that old life, and I couldn't be happier. Sure, I have less money now, fewer trappings of (so-called) worldly success, but I am making my art, and this feels like real life.
I know some of you are struggling around the same issues, so as you move into 2013, I would recommend reading The Icarus Deception for some inspiration.
Surprise and delight your fans. The joy of physical product.
The book in itself is fantastic, but as part of the Kickstarter funding level I joined, I got a whole bunch of print and physical goodies and I couldn't stop grinning as I unpacked the huge box (shown left).
It included an over-sized, gorgeous print book of the best of Seth's blog posts, amazingly formatted and a collector's item. 10 copies of Icarus Deception (you can win one by adding a comment below), 2 copies of ‘V is for Vulnerable', an awesomely illustrated adult picture book on art and taking risks, an artisan, ceramic mug, all kinds of little extra things and I even cut up the box for the poster to stick on my wall (top left).
I now read 99% on my Kindle and mobile apps, so I am a confirmed ebook junkie and hardly ever buy print anymore. Part of the reason is that I had to leave 2000 books behind when I moved from Australia and now I live in a shoebox flat in London!
But I was surprised and delighted by all this print and physical product goodness. It's all serious quality and I am proud to be part of the Kickstarter campaign.
It also makes me far more interested in doing print at some point in the future, something I have sworn off for now as too time-consuming and potentially rights I want to sell.
But I am considering doing some limited edition, hand-made books, with pages of my own diaries in at some point. Artisanal book-binding interests me far more than mass-market paperbacks.
The book has re-fired my passion for creating art, and also brought up some dilemmas for me in terms of what I want to pursue in 2013. When I have something coherent to share, I'll let you know what I mean!
I highly recommend you read The Icarus Deception and start your 2013 with some inspiration and passion behind your art.
For now, I will leave you to be inspired!
Do you consider yourself an artist? What is stopping you from creating?
It’s official! I’m an artist… and after reading up on the Icarus Sessions I volunteered for one in my town. Yikes! I’m nervous and excited all at the same time. Thanks for the push, Joanna!
All my life I planned to ‘write a book’ – but does it matter?! I’ve got a filing cabinet full of handwritten journals dating back 40 years, and I LOVE to write! Now… what to do with the journals… hmmm (it’ll come to me). I shall write until I depart this life, that’s all I know! Thank you Joanna, I love your writing – and all the advice and info.
Robert W. Hegwood says
In this vein, you might like what the much lauded cinematographer, Andri Tarkovsky has to say in his classic work on art and the artist, “Sculpting in Time.” Here follow a smattering of quotes from this work that resonate strongly with me…perhaps with you and others as well:
“The allotted function of art is not, as is often assumed, to put across ideas, to propagate thoughts, to serve as an example. The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good”
“History is not Time; nor is evolution. They are both consequences. Time is a state: the flame in which there lives the salamander of the human soul”
“Modern mass culture, aimed at the ‘consumer’, the civilisation of prosthetics, is crippling people’s souls, setting up barriers between man and the crucial questions of his existence, his consciousness of himself as a spiritual being.”
“It is obvious that art cannot teach anyone anything, since in four thousand years humanity has learnt nothing at all. We should long ago have become angels had we been capable of paying attention to the experience of art, and allowing ourselves to be changed in accordance with the ideals it expresses. Art only has the capacity, through shock and catharsis, to make the human soul receptive to good. It’s ridiculous to imagine that people can be taught to be good…Art can only give food – a jolt – the occasion – for psychical experience.”
Victor Moreau says
I guess what’s keeping me from writing is mostly my crappy office job which I hate. Besides, I have many passions and interests, so it may be hard to make room for writing in the middle of that, unless you have an iron discipline. I think I’ll try The Icarus Deception; the few passages you quoted comforted me in my opinion that I really need to quit that lame job, even though it’s scary and it will probably be hard at first to be on my own with less money.
Anyway, thank you, Joanna, for this article.
Joanna Penn says
Glad you found it useful Victor. I used to hate my day job too – and put a plan in place to get out. I started out writing at 5am before work, as well as evenings and weekends, eventually I moved to 4 days a week and then 3.5 years later, I left it to become a fulltime author-entrepreneur. It can be done!