Within two minutes of waking up, I remember things I’d rather not: raging wildfires, hurricanes, desperate refugees, white nationalists, dead gray whales washing up onshore. Keep Going is a gift, an emotional stain remover, the pep talk I didn’t know I needed in order to tamp down my despair and resume making art.
Kleon knows the struggle is real. (Good luck staying loose and open when the outside world is invading every level of your consciousness!) Here is a person who shows his work on every page. He lays out ingenious ways to shift your mindset to make time and space for your best work. By including his own visual art—comics, erasure poetry, hand lettering, collage—he makes his advice all the more engaging and credible.
Each chapter has a bouncy name and an unconventional perspective. In Chapter Four, “Make Gifts,” Kleon notes our (very capitalist, very American) tendency to use market terminology when praising people’s art. “You could sell this on Etsy!”
We used to have hobbies; now we have “side hustles.” As things continue to get worse in America, as the safety net gets torn up, and as steady jobs keep disappearing, the free-time activities that used to soothe us and take our minds off work and add meaning to our lives are now presented to us as potential income streams, or ways out of having a traditional job.”
When we insist our passions be practical, when our art becomes our only means to pay the bills, we risk draining the joy from the process. The antidote is to remove the profit motive—to make gifts for the people we love, or for ourselves. Like A. A. Milne did when he told his son stories about Winnie the Pooh.
Recommended for anyone who has been struggling to make their art. Please buy it in hard copy (two-page spreads!) from your local bookseller, if you can.