Book inspiration: Keep Going from Austin Kleon

Book inspiration: Keep Going from Austin Kleon
Man walking in nature with pencil and notebook in hand.

Here are some things that resonated when reading the book Keep Going by Austin Kleon.

Taking some notes for myself to self-reflect.

The process of making art is self-sufficient

The process of making art should on its own be what gives us a sense of satisfaction.

The outcome in our modern society is often measured by social metrics like views/counts/streams, but those should not matter. If only chasing those metrics, one could end up easily alienating what they enjoy in the process of making art, ending up making art for profit instead of getting the most joy in the process.

At this time, having 15 songs sitting around ready to be released, I feel way more inclined to find a simpler path to sharing the songs after reflecting on this idea. Otherwise said, the intangible sense of accomplishments should not be questioned by “suckcess” metrics.

The trap of making your art become a side hustle

The moment your art/passion becomes what feeds you and your family, you might start optimizing for what maximizes money instead of what positive impact the creation process gives you. This would in turn quickly lead to the need to find a new freedom space to express yourself without constraints. I recently discussed with a friend enlightening me with Goodhart's law stating that when a measure becomes a target, it’s no longer a good one. This is a major argument against pressuring yourself into achieving vanity metrics you have little control over.

It's not that I think that you cannot make money with art, but simply that this should not be the goal. This ensures you are focusing on quality, and what is meaningful to you.

Daily routines & habits

I’ve sided for some time now with the idea of bringing a bit of structure to each day with daily routines. This idea of cultivating habits leading toward my goals is something I’ve been standing behind for at least 3 years, with ups and downs. What I like about the idea of making sure each day is filled with things that gradually will contribute to something that matters to you, but more importantly, cultivate the discipline of making progress so that when bad days/weeks hit, you can just continue your journey without ruminating too much about the situation. For my part, I’m on a journey to learn Drums, Piano, and music harmony. In the past 3 years, I spent a lot of time learning as much as I could about mixing & mastering to be autonomous in that part of the process. I aspire to be able to compose quickly whatever I have on my mind, but quickly identified the process of mixing being a big blocker. I now consider myself happy with what I can achieve there, but want to become more fluent in music theory, Piano & Drums. Thus I have a daily habit of training those and try to stick to them as much as possible, doing ear training, Piano sessions & Drums.

Make gifts

I like the idea of making gifts in the form of art. I secretly really enjoyed every song I’ve ever created for others. I would say though, it’s important to not expect anything in return. And here I’m thinking about positive feedback for example (not necessarily money which obviously would be opposite to the idea of gifting in the first place). Whatever you get back is not important, positive or negative. What matters is that I put a little bit of myself into the process and I enjoyed it and delivered something truly unique by which I fully stand.

I somehow naturally have had the chance to do the following:

  • Mix songs for strangers
  • Create full production for friends & family
  • Teach friends how to mix
  • Give constructive feedback on others' work

I didn’t put words before on the positive state of mind I’m going through when carefully crafting a unique gift, nor did I truly understand what my motivations were. I do realize now that part of the answer is that it gives me the motive to perform my art for something else than vanity metrics, solely for the pleasure of offering and, before that, crafting.

Demons hate fresh air

Simply put, the idea of going regularly (as in Daily) for a walk to contemplate what life is about, and also to realize that it’s not about everything the news, politicians, or internet wants you to think it’s about.

Our attention is what is the most precious, and we should carefully consider what we aim it towards.

Walking helps us stay connected to the day, the now, life. I’m by the way fascinated to see that most people I cross when walking or running are older than me. As if in this tip alone resided some kind of secret that needs to be discovered & experienced, but cannot be learned before a certain age.

I will say that I need to find a better way than reaching to my phone to write down some thoughts during the walks or runs. I will experience it with a notebook.

For whatever reason, touching my phone is always a disrupting experience where the chaos of the world is trying to get to me again in a moment of deep connection with my thoughts.

Closing thoughts

Putting in writing some of the takeaways from this book allows me also to reflect on what things I can adapt in my thinking as a music producer.

First and foremost, I dig the idea of not chasing any kind of numbers like “release 1 music per week” or “aim to bring home $2,000 by the end of the year”.

This might be a bit controversial in a day and age where a lot of influencers are trying to sell the idea of setting targets and sharing tips & apps on how to be more “productive”. It seems now clearer that the idea isn’t necessarily to be as productive as possible but more to have a meaningful experience producing my art.

I think it’s easy to get lost in a no man’s land between the joy of creating and the heavy weight of feeling the need to turn it into something marketable. The key is to appreciate each day for what it is, without thinking about where it leads. This in turn will not only make sure I maximize the state of flow experienced making something truly unique and aligned with what I am, but also, will down the line possibly help me find what my art and my person is really about.

Also, I should grab a small notebook to write down lyrics & drum patterns that seem to always pop when running!