A review of a free eBook?
It’s rare that I would think it worthwhile my time to write - and yours to read - a downloadable PDF. Let alone two!
But Making Your Life as an Artist, and its accompanying workbook, by Andrew Simonet are a happy exception.
Distributed under a creative commons license on the website of Artists U - a grassroots, artist-run platform (founded by Simonet) whose mission is to help change the working conditions of artists.
“We want to change the conversations artists have in our heads, with each other, and with the world."
These fabulous self-help books are a valuable addition to the library of any creative struggling, as we all do, to build a life that is, in the words of the folks at Artists U, "balanced, productive, and sustainable".
Making Your Life as an Artist covers all the important ground such as Planning, Mission, Money and Time. But don’t be fooled by the apparent simplicity of the book.
In just under 200 pages of succint, sparsely-filled, and handsomely-designed pages, Simonet’s writing is capable of subtly changing how you view your creative persona and therefore the way you need to interact with the world.
“...procrastination is a rational response to an unrealistic to-do list.”
Now a writer, from 1993 to 2013, Andrew Simonet was a founding co-director and choreographer of Headlong, a collaborative dance theatre in Philadelphia, which also toured across the US.
Consequently his writing is anchored in the hard-won wisdom of experience, and in case you doubt it, he sprinkles the book with pithy personal anecdotes to illustrate his points.
While many of the topics he covers are essential but hardly new territory, Simonet isn’t afraid to step into less safe waters.
In the chapter provocatively titled Our Punishing Lives, as well as exploring perennial topics such as perfectionism, workaholism, starving artist syndrome, Simonet dives into less-talked about ones such as the misplaced competitiveness that leads us to resent the success of other artists, and the destructive nature of our hunger for recognition.
Equally at home tackling the more obvious topics or the less-discussed ones, Simonet's frank, matter-of-fact yet empathetic delivery somehow makes his insight hit home hard.
"I used to think of perfectionism as rigor: I’m being tough on myself; I’m going to expect the maximum. Now, I see perfectionism as vanity: the rules don’t apply to me; I’m not human like everyone else; I can do the impossible; I can be perfect.”
Whether he is demystifying how to talk about what you do to someone who has never met an artist before, writing your artist statement or calculating your hourly rate, Simonet manages to cover really important questions with astonishing insight and depth without ever rambling or using a word more than he needs to. This ability to reduce concepts to their essentials means he excels at taking really daunting tasks and breaking them down for us into a series of totally doable steps.
Simonet’s book is empowering in a way that will give you not a few ‘aha' moments as you recognise how much being an artist pervades the way you behave in other areas, and the remarkably positive origins of the negative traits we often develop as artists.
I defy you not to recognise yourself in at least some of the scenarios that he paints.
“...artists are astonishingly capable. We can figure out how to do just about anything. But when that ability meets our scarcity mentality, it leads us to do everything.
Where to get the books
For once free really means FREE. These books are full and complete within themselves.
While you are asked to give your email address in order to download them, it’s not because Artists U is planning to sell you anything. They just want to create a network of artists and send you an occasional update on their projects - all of of which are free for all participants.
Making Your Life as an Artist and Making Your Life as an Artist Workbook
from Artists U here.
Both books are also available as hard copies from the Artist's U website.