Last month I read The Alchemist, Bird by Bird, and Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking. Due to its small size, The Alchemist is a book that can be read in a few hours. Although the overall theme focused on pursuing your dream, I found I was conflicted at times by how that point was made. Nevertheless, there were three concepts I found to be really encouraging when pursuing your dream.
- Be courageous and don’t give up in the midst of defeat. When Santiago, a shepherd and the main character, sets out to pursue his Personal Legend (his dream), he is quickly robbed and left with no money. His immediate response is, “I’m going to become bitter and distrustful of people, because one person betrayed me. I’m going to hate those who have found their treasure, because I never found mine” (p. 39). Although he eventually continues with his journey, his initial response can be all too common. But if we submit to defeat, we allow ourselves to become susceptible to feelings of bitterness, disappointment, and complacency, which can rob us of great opportunities.
- Overcome obstacles with perseverance. As Santiago continued his journey through the expansive desert, he observed the way of the caravan, “no matter how many detours and adjustments it made, the caravan moved towards the same compass point. Once obstacles were overcome, it returned to its course…” (p.75). It’s easy to allow setbacks and decisions that weren’t apart of the original plan interfere or distract us from our goal. When this occurs, patience and endurance are necessary in order to not lose sight.
- Have faith in the one directing you. In a conversation between Santiago and the camel driver, the camel driver tells him, “We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it’s our life or our possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand” (p.76). Some may refer to it as fate or as destiny, or as your purpose, but for me, I choose to believe there is a God who has created all things, knows all things, and is in control of all things. Trusting Him to guide me towards the desires he has given me is somewhat like Santiago being guided by his heart and the omens leading him to complete his Personal Legend.
One of the most recurrent themes I see come up in social media posts is comparison. The thing I liked about Art & Fear is that it normalizes the feelings we have in relation to self-doubt, comparison, fear of failure, or not being good enough, and it encourages the artist to do what he/she loves to do, because he/she cares about it, despite whether “there may be neither audience nor reward” (p.2). Some of my favorite quotes include:
- “In large measure becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive” (p.3).
- “One of the basic and difficult lessons every artist must learn is that even the failed pieces are essential” (p.6).
- “Fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your own work” (p.23).
- “You make good work by (among other things) making lots of work that isn’t very good, and gradually weeding out the parts that aren’t good, the parts that aren’t yours” (p.26).
- “Imperfection is not only a common ingredient in art, but very likely an essential ingredient” (p.30).
- “The only work really worth doing – the only work you can do convincingly – is the work that focuses on the things you care about” (p. 116).
Lastly, Bird by Bird, is simply a must read for anyone in school or anyone who is passionate about writing. Anne Lamott uses her personal experience to provide tips on writing well. A few of my favorites include:
- Always observe and be aware of what is taking place in your surroundings. “Writing is about learning to pay attention and to communicate what’s going on” (p.97).
- Read well. These things inform our minds, inspire us, and educate us as we write the truth.
- Take it “bird by bird”. Sometimes writing means beginning small by focusing on the details of one element, such as a scene, a character, an interaction, or a conversation.
- As best as you can, try to avoid comparing yourself to the success of others. “Jealousy is such a direct attack on whatever measure of confidence you’ve been able to muster” (p.122).
- When facing writer’s block, live as though you’re dying. “To live as if we are dying, gives us a chance to experience some real presence” and this helps to fill us “up with observations, flavors, ideas, visions, memories” (p.179).
JUNE BOOK LIST:
1. Night by Elie Wiesel
I’ve always been so interested in WWII and the Holocaust. This book is an autobiography that discusses the author’s survival in the concentration camps during WWII.
2. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert is well-known for her book Eat, Pray, and Love. I’ve only watched the movie based on the book, but haven’t read the book. I was more interested in reading her book Big Magic to continue with the theme of overcoming fear and doubt, while pursuing your creative dream.
3. Emma by Jane Austin
I admit I’ve only read Pride & Prejudice, which I’m embarrassed about given that Jane Austin’s writing and dialogue between her characters is so incredible, and always with the perfect amount of wit. I also can’t wait to watch the movie Love and Friendship.
Click here to view past book lists.