Atlanta And BeyondAmanda
Atlanta & beyondest. 2009

Four Favorite Books: Vitamins for the Artist’s Brain

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“Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.”
-Alan Keightley

You may be aware that I read a lot of books. Or you may not have realized that I knew how to read. But guess what? I read constantly. And I’m weird, ’cause I can’t stand to read fiction. All I read is non-fiction. Books about art and photography and business and science and history and biographies of artists (and bears, oh my). The wall behind my desk is bookshelves full of that stuff. My library card has melted a couple of times. Did you know the library will let you have 75 books at a time? Do you know how much space 75 library books can take up on your desk?

Sadly, most books have only one or two nuggets of useful information and then just a lot of forgettable filler in them. Blah blah blah. Same old crap. Everybody pretty much agrees about the same stuff and just regurgitates it for us to put in our eye holes. So you skim through it and move on to the next one. Occasionally you find a book that’s really quite good. And that’s awesome. And then, if you’re really lucky, you will find one or two that have enough of that something special that you’ll read the whole thing, and then you’ll come back to it and read it again. And that’s what these four books are. They are the books that I read and re-read. They have enough value that they give me something every time I read them. And if you’re a creative professional, you might appreciate one or two of them too.

1. The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau.

This book gave me information I didn’t know I was looking for. It’s the book I give credit to (blame) for getting me started down this path. Understanding that it’s ok to ignore everyone who says you have to follow their rules and fit yourself into a box isn’t something I ever thought was a problem for me. I was fairly confident in my non-conformity. Then I read this book and realized how much conforming I had been doing. Despite the somewhat questionable (and certainly non-conformist) decision to launch myself on a new career trajectory in the heart of a deep recession instead of continuing to pursue my previous successful career, this book helped me realize I was still trying to put myself in a box with everyone else. Even though it was making me as deeply unhappy as most others in the box (cage) seem to be. Because I really have begun to feel compelled to make life meaningful on a deeper level, it is important to make noise and do things differently. The rat race is so devoid of connection. It’s just rats. Racing. To nowhere. So, I’m off the track. Out of the race. And it’s working.

2. Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy.

The beauty of this book is that it’s amazingly short. It’s about being efficient and developing habits that successful people employ to maintain the highest levels of productivity. It’s about getting shit done. And fast. And it doesn’t use any extra chapters to discuss what you already know. Get up and get to work. But do it with purpose and direction, and make a frikkin’ list for cryin’ out loud.

3. Accidental Creative by Todd Henry.

Creating for a living is hard. People don’t realize how hard it is because most of the work happens quietly inside your head. Other than the random “Eureka!”, someone might never know a creative professional was busy changing the world. But the thing is, being creative day in and day out on demand can really suck the soul out of you if you aren’t prepared to do the work to keep your mind fresh. But what do you do to keep the creative battery charged? That’s what this book is about. Creativity isn’t passive. If you sit around waiting for inspiration, you’ll do a lot of waiting. Professionals don’t have that kind of time. Instead, treat your creativity like what it is, an ability that you have that you can work to improve and refine. Todd Henry has been doing podcasts on this topic for a long time, really good ones. I’ve been listening to him for years, so when his book came out, I grabbed it. You should too.

4. Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod.

This books makes me want to create. It makes me laugh. It makes me mad. It riles me up. It’s short and full of irreverent cartoons that the author drew on the backs of business cards for years while he was paying his creative dues to the man. It has attitude and inspiration and power. I read this book when I need someone to make me get off my butt and get back to work. This book is kind of like that friend you have who tells you like it is, even when it sucks. It’s the best kind of friend to have. I’m reading it right now.

So go read something already!! And I’d love to know what you’re reading, so please share with us in the comments section what’s on your bookshelf these days. Mebbe we can start a book club. We can call it Vitamin B(rain).

Amanda Summerlin
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