137 Comments
Jan 31, 2023Liked by Austin Kleon

Last night I listened to a good conversation between Kate Bowler and Elizabeth Gilbert on creativity. One of my favorite things Liz Gilbert said was (loosely paraphrasing): In our culture we get so obsessed with having a higher purpose, as if having/living a life isn't pretty incredible on its own. This hit me hard.

I also started Katherine May's "Wintering." So, I think I'm just going to hunker down and accept the season for what it is.

Expand full comment

I remember being struck by that comment as well. Seriously. In some podcast, I do wish I could remember the source, maybe it was this one? Anyways, some wise person said they strive to 3 things each day, to be Healthy, Connected, and Purposeful. I love "Purposeful" so much more than "Productive." So, when I'm feeling a little down about my day, I look to these three words and try to do something that aligns with each. In the long run, I think these three "strivings" lead to feeling pretty good about the life you lead.

Expand full comment
Jan 31, 2023·edited Jan 31, 2023

@Darlene, It might be Karen Walrond in the Unlocking Us with Brené Brown. If I remember correctly, it's the episode before Brown's sabbatical. A real conversation between friends - Brené was seemingly burned-out, and Karen was pushing her to take a break.

Expand full comment

Thanks - I think that's it!

Expand full comment

Oh that's lovely! I despise most of our culture's views on productivity. I think the key here is in considering what we define as purposeful. I loved in the same part of the conversation when Liz talks about holding the rickety ladder for a gentleman who never even knew she was there doing so, and having the thought that, what if that was her purpose, and everything else she has done was simply killing time.

Expand full comment

"In our culture we get so obsessed with having a higher purpose, as if having/living a life isn't pretty incredible on its own."

That is such a great reminder. So often I fall into the trap of feeling like life hasn't really started yet instead of being present in the incredible life that's unfolding around me.

Expand full comment

It's so easy to do!! Hard sometimes to remember to just drop back and be.

Expand full comment

Oh, I loved that conversation so very much! Thank you for offering this favorite LG moment - I think I needed that exact reminder 🤩

Expand full comment

Both of those: the Bower/Gilbert interview and Wintering are excellent in helping us realize what a treadmill we create for ourselves. Best of luck to you in hunkering down.

Expand full comment

I finished my backyard studio (over a year in the making) and yet, here I sit in the kitchen. My bread is proofing for another three hours, the dog is always going to be needy, whether I'm here or not (and will survive) and I am making lists rather than getting out there. I loved this post. It is all about practice, isn't it? I know this well. Time to bring the kindling to the studio and carefully start making the fire. And I will definitely make up the loft bed for Bridget!

Expand full comment
author

I, too, despite my backyard studio, am sitting here at the kitchen table! :)

https://tumblr.austinkleon.com/post/15257339384

Expand full comment

Put the bread on a timer?

Expand full comment

I'm sure you've discussed this before but one of my friends always endorses the importance of "fallow fields" for any kind of work--that is, there are always slow periods and that's part of the work. Without them nothing grows.

And while this quotation doesn't quite align with the comment on invitation, your comment nevertheless made me think of Michael Ondaatje's line "art steps forward as accident."

Expand full comment
author

definitely. I also like the idea of "crop rotation" https://austinkleon.com/2017/10/06/crop-rotation/

Expand full comment

I celebrate Nowruz (the Iranian new year, but also celebrated widely elsewhere in Asia and in the diaspora), so I try to see February and March as preparing for that. Doing spring cleaning, growing sprouts from dried lentils for the Haft Seen table, and so on. But it’s also very cold here in Toronto. To survive, I bundle up with wool base layers for daily walks, go to sleep early, wake up with the intention to journal and save exercise for later in the day, have lots of warm drinks as treats, bake on the weekends. And just think of it as a season of preparation and rest. Starting today I’m also spending the next 30 days off social media and using the internet at specific times of day.

Expand full comment
author

I was very curious about Nowruz after reading about it! Will read more — best wishes with your preparations and celebrations !

Expand full comment

For those of us who live by Groundhog Day, every day is Day 1. Reset to Zero (Colin Wright) works for me to establish new starts each month, so today is clean-out day. My January notebook is fat so I'm ok so far this year. Herb Picking Day is good for anyone who wants a do-over. That's a freeform holiday that you can assign on any day, like a joker in a deck, whenever you need to just celebrate Yourself. May our Muses have a cheerful, helpful neat four weeks of February. I don't do any of the traditional holidays.

Expand full comment
author

"like a joker in a deck" love that

Expand full comment

I’ve always used February as the start of the year on the account that the holidays always mess up finishing things. January is the time I get to finish December. For the believers in astrology this January was plagued by two planets retrograding. Mars that gives us energy and Mercury that controls many things among contracts, projects and things we promise to do. That’s my excuse! I’m taking the first ten days of February to visit my adult kids in California. When I come back I look forward to start things. In my original country in South America the year starts on March 1, when all kids start their first day of school, which ends on December 1.

Expand full comment

“January is the time I get to finish December”--I feel this!

Expand full comment

“January is the time I get to finish December.” 👍👍👍

Expand full comment

February is when I get to finish January then! Lol!

Expand full comment

Another new year for you - Judaism has four - Tu B’Shevat, the new year for trees, is Feb. 6 (begins at sundown Feb. 5) Plant something and watch it grow. Even carrot tops on the kitchen windowsill will bring spring into your winter.

Expand full comment
author

I love it — thank you!!

Expand full comment

That is really great. I will definitely observe this year!

Expand full comment

February is my birth month and I’m launching my crowdfunding campaign for my arts space in Oakland tomorrow :) I love February, this is going to be my month and my year!!

Expand full comment
author

happy birthday!

Expand full comment

Happy Birthday!

Expand full comment

Happy Birthday fellow Aquarian!

Expand full comment
Jan 31, 2023Liked by Austin Kleon

Keep up with my drumming practice ( I notice it really makes me feel "alive"), maybe get back into some sort of art'ing, crack down on finding a more fulfilling job but really? I'd like to get back into reading without feeling guilty or that I'm wasting time.

Expand full comment

I support you in your reading! I started reading at night about an hour before bed and it’s been magical getting back into books again. I read anything that strikes my fancy with no judgement!

Expand full comment

Aw that sounds really cozy. Lately I've loved collecting books but find it hard to sit down with them so finding a dedicated time like that would be really nice!

Expand full comment

Im surviving by doing things that keep me alive-- music, writing and art ... filling up a page a day at time and hopefully at the end of it all I have something worth to put out to the world ... giving myself false hope and exciting myself for the future one day at a time really 🌞 🔁 🌙

Expand full comment
author

I keep giving myself capitalized notes: MAKE PAGES

Expand full comment

Every walk I take is a noticing walk! A friend once complained his neighborhood was boring, and I refused to believe it. He just wasn't paying attention. I love Rob Walker's work, and don't know how I missed 50 Sad Chairs. It's right up my alley (and I have seen many a sad chair in the alleys around here). This all reminded me of the book Drunk Furniture: The Secret Life of Unsober Sofas by Rhodri Marsden. They used one of my photos! Swoon.

https://www.alibris.com/Drunk-Furniture-The-Secret-Life-of-Unsober-Sofas-Rhodri-Marsden/book/29796331

As for surviving February (and winter), I always take a full week off work to celebrate Darwin's Day (2/12). Pre-pandemic we usually took a trip to the Oregon or Washington coast for a few days, but have moved that to warmer summertime now. I'm hoping for a couple of nice days to get out for day trips, and this year we'll be starting to shop for a new trailer so we can go camping again. It may be cold and crappy weather, but signs of spring are starting to show and the days are getting longer. Somehow we get through it all every year!

Expand full comment
author

it's true — we ate fresh radishes and lettuce from meg's garden this week and it was such a highlight

Expand full comment

I hope her garden isn't being affected by the cold temps down there!

Expand full comment

"Every walk is a noticing walk!" You will know why I love that. A trailer sounds like a great way to enjoy camping in the winter.

Expand full comment

We will be thrilled to get out camping in the summer and fall again - winter would be a bonus! The old (very old) trailer served us well, but it's time to get something more modern.

Expand full comment

Hejo Austin, I've given the idea of 12-month year up because it was too stressful. My year has 13 months. You can read more about it here: https://www.wiktoriadalach.com/the-13-month-year/

Thank you for writing about time, and time perception in the past years. It made me realize how I don't understand the time and how difficult it is for me to live in a timed world.

Take care!

Expand full comment
author

I loved your page on time perception, linking it here for others who might like to see it: https://www.wiktoriadalach.com/types-of-time-perception/

BTW: did you know that there was a big push to actually do this 13-month calendar????

https://austinkleon.com/2021/02/05/the-trouble-with-months/

and that from 1928-1989, Eastman-Kodak made all employees use it?!?!

totally wild.

My favorite line: "A month is just a bad habit."

Expand full comment
Jan 31, 2023Liked by Austin Kleon

Thank you so much for linking my stuff, Austin 💚 I cannot believe that I didn't know about Eastman-Kodak calendar, I'm going to read it right now.

Expand full comment

That's right! I totally forgot that about Kodak. I worked there during that time. And regarding the "new" standard in "The Trouble with Months," I would object to starting the week with Sunday and ending on Monday. Ever since I began bullet journaling seven years ago, I organize my life through a Mon-Sat calendar. It makes so much sense to me to keep the weekend days together.

Expand full comment

I have always thought that if they let women make the calendar, it would have been a very clear decision to make months 28 days long and all this nonsense would be lessened.

Expand full comment

I love this idea! I like things neat and orderly, and the typical year calendar is anything but.

Expand full comment

Thank you, Mary! You can try it yourself. Monday, Feb 6th, is the beginning of a new month :)

Expand full comment

Your process also reminds me of the book, "The 12-Week Year" by Brian P. Moran.

Expand full comment

I haven't hear about it. Do you recommend it?

Expand full comment

Yes, I do. It's been a while since I read it, and I need to read it again. Reading it happened to coincide with an art class I was taking that "operates" on seasons. That is, setting an art intention for a season at a time, and building my own "curriculum" around it. The book focuses on "getting more done." My focus is on getting rhythms in place, not so much about becoming extremely productive.

Expand full comment

I love the idea of setting intentions for each season. Thank you, Mary, for taking the time to share it with me. I appreciate it. I'd love to know how a curriculum could look like. Do you maybe have a gallery or a website?

Expand full comment
Jan 31, 2023Liked by Austin Kleon

My family has long agreed with Kevin Killeen’s dad. Four of my five grandparents died in February (the other died the last week in January). And my mother died on February 28 last year. She was very ill and I said to my husband that morning, “It’s the last day of February. She’s going to go today.” And she did.

Expand full comment
author

I've made the same observation — I lost both my grandmothers this time of year in the past two years

Expand full comment

All comfort and love to you as you navigate this month of anniversaries.

Expand full comment

Thanks, Bridget.

Expand full comment
Jan 31, 2023Liked by Austin Kleon

I love the absurdity of Groundhog Day, a day dedicated to a rodent who will eat my lettuces later on when snow stops blanketing New England. The sun is promising warmth, even if it is not delivering yet. My family will gather for a meal of sausages (ground hog), root vegetables from the ground, potatoes, root beer, and brownies, brown like the earth. We will visit with no expectation of presents, decorations, or complicated rituals. Then I will take a deep breath, exhale, and slip through the rest of winter.

Expand full comment
author

I try to love even the rodents, but it's difficult! I enjoy this story about Thoreau getting so close to a groundhog it let him touch it: https://twitter.com/austinkleon/status/1356707285494607872

Expand full comment

I'm imagining Bill Murray meditating with Phil.

Expand full comment

I love the idea of starting things in February and letting January do it’s own thing. What a relief! I’ve always looked at January as a bit of a hunkering down period- I’m too busy still hibernating (as much as I can with a day job).

Turns out I’ve also written about this in my newsletter this week (not out yet).

Expand full comment

So 3 things for February: (1) Remember this motto. "Discipline is remembering what I want." (Seen on a yoga studio's bulletin board many moons ago.)

So (2) I have a way of finishing 90 percent of a task and leaving 10 percent undone...and this action, or rather nonaction, has a way of snowballing. So my first baby step. I cannot leave any unwashed items in the kitchen sink...it's never many...a couple of unwashed knives, a small pot. I did not sit down to write this until I had cleaned up the sink. And guess what...this good habit now affects my art (I am a book artist), and other areas of my life.

(3) Do fun and crazy things in February. I coloured some valentines (yes, I know it's kind of a hokey holiday) with dyed shaving cream. Had a blast. Here's how to do it: Squirt some shaving cream on a paper plate. Squeeze a couple of dabs of pink, and/or red acrylic paint on the shaving cream. Partially mix. Take a pre cut valentine shaped piece of paper (water color or card stock paper is better, ie something heavier than text weight) and place face down in the shaving cream. But don't completely cover it with painted shaving cream. Pick up valentine and scrape excess paint off with a scrapper, say a wind shield scrapper. Kids love this (and so does this adult). And I laughed a lot. Unfortunately, no way to attach photos to this comment....

Expand full comment
author

I love the "Discipline is remembering what I want" line. I find a lot of time my lack of discipline is related to not knowing what I want. Related: persistence is easier with obsession https://austinkleon.com/2021/03/17/positive-obsession/

Expand full comment

Your point about seeing a motto in a yoga studio made me remember something I heard in a yoga session. At the end, we were standing in Mountain Pose and the teacher asked us to close our eyes and notice that even though we appear to be standing still in the pose, we are making many tiny little adjustments - in our feet, knees, hips, etc. So it looks like we are standing still but we are really not perfectly still. This has helped me shed the shame of thinking "People will see me in my slowness and think that I am not making any progress.!" I remind myself that this is not true. To stick to a course and make many small micro-adjustments along that course is still progress!

Expand full comment

Very good point. Even though I may make mini moves, I am still moving and that what is important...

Expand full comment

Yes! You are still moving! This is also quite a great bit of advice from Missy Graffe Ballone who wrote about the benefit of even small movements in her book Wellness for Makers, and now she has a website. https://www.wellnessformakers.com

Expand full comment

Sounds like fun!

Expand full comment