Book notes
Keep Going

Keep Going by Austin Kleon

Read in December 2020

"Walking is a way to find possibility in your life when there doesn't seem to be any left."

1. Every day is a Groundhog Day

In the Groundhog Day movie, the lead character wakes up on the same day every day. He repeatedly wakes up on the 2nd of February.

Creative life resembles Groundhog Day in terms of repetition. It's not linear, but more like a loop. No matter how successful you get, you'll never "arrive."

Yesterday is over, tomorrow may never come, there's just today and what you can do with it.


Establishing a daily routine will help you make the most of the day.

"When you don't have much time, a routine helps you make the little time you have count. When you have all the time in the world, a routine makes sure you don't waste it."

A little imprisonment –if it's our own making– can set you free.

Additionally, when you have days that differ from the routines, they will feel more remarkable.

Making Lists

A list is a collection with purpose.

  • To-do
  • Won't do
  • Pros/Cons
  • Someday/Maybe
  • Top 100

Writing Journal

Every day is a blank page; when you are done with it, just write down what you accomplished and what you want to achieve the next day, then go to sleep.

2. Build a Bliss Station

Disconnect from the world to connect with yourself.

The creativity is fed by connection and what we share with others. Yet, we also need to disconnect to create room to allow creation. You must have space and time to retreat and make the most out of silence and solitude.

Almost everything will be working again if you unplug it for a few minutes –including you.

– Anne Lamott

Turn off your phone, don't check it the first thing in the morning. Don't invite the world of anxiety right away. You can survive without news for a few hours.

Saying "no" to the world can be hard, but sometimes it's the only way to say "yes" to your art and your sanity.

3. Forget The Noun, Do The Verb

Creativity is just a tool, it can be applied to any aspect of life.

When taken too seriously, the job titles can mess you up. They can restrict the kind of works you want to do.

Forget all the nouns together, and do the verbs instead. Do it even the outcome never arrives, or it's bad.

4. Make Gifts

We're trained to tread hobbies as side-hustles as the world around us gets monetized every day.

However, turning passion into breadwinning may have side-effects. Your passion can turn into hatred over time.

If you want artistic freedom, keep your overhead low.

  • "Do what you love" + low overhead = a good life.
  • "Do what you love" + "I deserve a nice living" = a time bomb

It's easy to become obsessed with online metrics such as likes, retweets, visitors, and etc. Ignoring measurements and focusing on what feeds your soul is a more sustainable practice to follow.

Definition of success becomes "sucksess" when it's influenced by somebody else's terms. It feels fake, unreachable, or undeserved.

The art exists in both gift and market economies. The quickest way to recover "the feeling of gift" is to make something for someone you care about.

5. The Ordinary + Extra Attention = The Extraordinary

Great artists are able to find magic in the mundane. They create extraordinary things by paying extra attention to ordinary things.

When your job is to see things that others don't, you have to slow down enough that you can actually look.

Slow thinking, looking, cooking, eating makes us more involved in the process. It indeed requires training in an age obsessed with speed.

What you choose to pay attention is the stuff your life and work will be made of.

6. Slay The Art Monsters

Art Monsters: people who produce great art but have been doing morally wrong things in their personal lives. Austin thinks it's not ok to tolerate the monstrous failures because of their contributions.

If making your art is ruining anyone's life, including your own, it's not worth making.

7. You Are Allowed To Change Your Mind

If you've never changed your mind about something, pinch yourself, you may be dead!

Changing ideas in public is seen as a weakness for politicians. Speaking with a different tone or mindset may be seen as inconsistent for brands. However, being open to change and embracing uncertainty is the only way to move forward.

IF you really want to change (or strengthen) your ideas, consider hanging out with people (or consume resources) that aren't so much like-minded. Instead of just reacting with rejection, think about it.

Visit the past. History is full of stories and ideas that might match or contradict yours.

8. When in Doubt, Tidy Up

Criticism against the up and productivity movement: creativity is not equal to productivity. Sometimes you're very creative while not being productive. Creativity is about making connections, and it's hard to make them by siloing everything. New ideas are formed by interesting juxtapositions.

9. Demons Hate Fresh Air

Get some fresh air whenever you can. Morning walks are powerful. They are good for though, disconnection, and health.

Walking is a way to find possibility in your life when there doesn't seem to be any left.

10. Plant Your Garden

Just as the plants in a forest, we also have our seasons of creativity. Sometimes it's better to collect than create. This too shall pass!

Worry less about getting things done. Worry more about things worth doing. Worry less about being a great artist. Worry more about being a good human being who makes art. Worry less about making a mark. Worry more about leaving things better than you found them.