Things Are What You Make Of Them: Life Advice For Creatives, by Adam J. Kurtz
I must admit that I have a great taste for earthy and humorous books on advice, and as a creative person myself I found this book to be enjoyable from that perspective as well. By no means does this mean that all of the advice is good, but a book like this is meant to be somewhat provocative and at the same time to provide encouragement to people whose creativity often depends on psychological factors, and on that level this book certainly succeeds. And much of the insight provided here is in fact worth paying attention to, the sort of advice and counsel one is likely to get from many sources, but framed in a way that readers are likely to take it seriously. Plenty of this advice is stuff that I would say to other creative people and have before in my own advice columns as a blogger, and the fact that the author is a blogger and that this book was inspired by something that was written on his blog increases my own view of the author’s credibility, even as he modestly protests that he is not an expert.
This book is a fairly short one at quarto size and a bit less than 150 pages. The book begins with a foreword by Grace Bonney (I don’t know who she is) and ends with a modest note from the author, as well as a humorous take on acknowledgments and thanks, as well as some information on the author. In between these bookends, the book contains a variety of sections that are portrayed as hand-written notes from a small pad of paper, the sort of notes that one would put on one’s fridge or in one’s cubicle at work. These sections include tips on how to get started, 8 things every creative person should know, how to get over common creative fears, how to stay sane when one works at home, how to get over comparing yourself with other creative people, how to be happier, using one’s power for good, what to do when one fails, how to begin again, working with friends and family, how to be yourself, how to keep going, and some simple tips for success. It should be noted that the ending section on tips for success is the blog post/series that inspired the idea for the book as a whole, which is a good thing.
The advice given in this book is practical, and the author is a bit coy on occasionally crossing out swear words while leaving them visible enough to be read by the reader. As I mentioned before, much of this advice can be read elsewhere–not comparing yourself among yourselves comes from the Bible, and has been repeated often since then by other readers who recognize its insight. The author’s advice on working from home involving separating one’s work from one’s being at home, whether that means going to an office or occasionally going out for lunch and breaks or working in an office rather than in one’s bed, is generally sound where it is possible to do so. Likewise, the author’s advice on working with friends and family to set boundaries and proper expectations and communicate on them early and often is also sound, and would reduce or eliminate many of the concerns that plague people when it comes to working with and for friends and family. Likewise, the author’s frank admission of the possibility of failure and in how such failures can be turned to the positive is advice worth taking as well. This is certainly a worthwhile book to read and ponder on and to take as applying where one wishes to do so.