Manifestos, guides, and best friends.

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Sometimes you need a friendly guide who is on-call to help you when you hit a creative roadblock.

Who do you go to if you're feeling financially freaked out, or creatively stuck, or overwhelmed by resistance and wonky time management?

You need a friend who is good at telling you what you most need to hear exactly when you need to hear it, and you need to get it right away, to shake you out of your rut. You need to feel the message like a flashbulb in the face. 

A good guide reflects your best self to you. She's tough sometimes, and she'll call you on things if you're being stubborn or whiny. She doesn't take herself too seriously, though. A good guide knows what's most important, and what's truly at stake for you (everything!), but she also loves you for who you are now, with all of your beautiful flaws. She also knows that she's not above feeling the same way you do — she's not superhuman, she just knows what it takes to get through a rough spot.

I consider the following manifestos and guides to be a few of my best friends. Pick one up this summer, and keep it on your writing desk. These aren't dense reads — they're more concentrated punches of tough love.

Read one in the morning with your coffee, and copy some of the sentences/promises into your notebook. Underline them, draw stars around them. Post them on Instagram; washi-tape them to your wall.

Use these guides to remind yourself what's important, and why you love to do the creative work that you do. Remind yourself that taking artistic risks is not too frightening - that you can totally do this, and that it actually feels good.

Ready? Go get one of these guides. Read it. Remember what you love about this life, and what you have to do next to live fully as the artist you are.


Making Your Life as an Artist

  Making Your Life As An Artist

Guide/author/person to thank:

Andrew Simonet and Artists U

What's it about:

With the tagline, "Don't starve. Make art," you will probably fall in love with this little guide the way I did. Art is vital and important — artists play such an important role in society and culture. And yet their lives are often full of suffering — artists are always broke, overworked, and overwhelmed. It doesn't have to be that way — this book teaches artists how to change that pattern. The book is a free download — Andrew Simonet and Artists U want 100,000 artists to read this book — they're making it a movement! You can also buy a print copy for $18.

Favourite excerpt:

"Building a sustainable life isn’t simple. But it’s not as hard as the things you are already doing. Conceiving of, planning, creating, and delivering an original work of art is hard. That is a skill set very few people have. So if you want to stop reading now, here’s the short answer: Apply the skills, creativity, and resourcefulness of your art practice to the rest of your life."


Steal Like An Artist

  Steal-Like-an-Artist

Author/person to thank:

Austin Kleon

What's it about:

This is a manifesto against perfectionism and preciousness. It's a manifesto for the richness of artistic influence. For the value of daily practice, even though it rarely feels romantic. Original work is never created in a vacuum. And entering the art-making process gets you making art, which is the whole point.

Favourite excerpt:

"Nobody is born with a style or voice. We don't come out of the womb knowing who we are. In the beginning, we learn by pretending to be our heroes. We learn by copying. We're talking about practice here, not plagiarism — plagiarism is trying to pass someone else's work off as your own. Copying is about reverse-engineering. It's like a mechanic taking apart a car to see how it works."


Do the Work!

  dothework

Author/person to thank:

Steven Pressfield

What's it about:

The guide for people who are stuck. Pressfield's earlier book, "The War of Art," is along the same lines — how to overcome resistance and soldier through it — but this guide is short, more direct, and even more practical. He explains that the higher the importance of a task, the higher the resistance — and that to get through it, you must acknowledge and lean on blind faith. You do the work anyway.

Favourite excerpt:

"Imagine a box with a lid. Hold the box in your hand. Now open it. What's inside? It might be a frog, a silk scarf, a gold coin of Persia. But here's the trick: no matter how many times you open the box, there is always something in it. Ask me my religion. That's it. I believe with unshakeable faith that there will always be something in the box."


Enjoy! Happy summer trails.

xo

Sarah Selecky

Photo credit (top): Charl Folscher on Unsplash.


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8 comments

Peggy Elms

Dear Sarah, How delighted I was to read this post today. Thank you for the tips and readings that are available for writers/artists all over. I have thought of asking my best friend for help at times and just didn't. I will now. Kindly, Peggy
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Maria Matthews

My problem is time management. There are two many must do's (i.e. building an author platform, blogging, marketing etc.) All making me have less creative time - will your course help me straighten out this issue?
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Sarah Selecky

Hey Maria! The beautiful thing about a course like this - one with deadlines and small classes and accountability and feedback - is that it's much easier to prioritize it and make time for it. When you're working on your own it's more challenging to make time for your creative work. While my course doesn't offer any new time management systems, the structure and format will require you to make time for the readings, discussions and writing. You will do your creative work, and it will feel important (and rightly so). The marketing and platform-building is not actually a must-do -- after all, if you aren't writing, why do you need an author platform? The Intensive will make your creative work come first. This will change *everything.* Thanks for your question!
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Sarah Selecky

Hi Peggy! I hope you love these new "friends." Thank you for this comment! xo S
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Allan Berry

I am not really sure which program I should subscribe to, `Story is a State of Mind`` or ``The Story Intensive``. I am a relatively new writer and I do not know the appropriate program.
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Mary Nicholson

Hi Sarah! This is a great list- I love Steven Pressfield and I am starting "Making Your Life as an Artist" I have one to add to the list- "Writing is my Drink: A Writer's Story of Finding Her Voice (and a Guide to How You Can Too)" by Theo Pauline Nestor. Absolutely ADDICTED to this book and my writing circles are too! An honest memoir of the writing life and finding your authentic voice. She also has writing exercises at the end of each chapter which I cannot wait to dig in to! Thought I would pass it on to your readers!
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Sarah Selecky

Hi Allan! Why not start with Story Is a State of Mind, and see if you like it. If you do, and you think you'll also benefit from doing the work with a class of like-minded individuals, then enroll in The Story Intensive! I will put you in a class with an appropriate TA for your level, and you'll have the chance to do all of the assignments with guidance and feedback.
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Sarah Selecky

Thanks Mary! I haven't heard of this book yet but it sounds GREAT. Will look it up!
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