Clara Lieu reached out to me a couple months ago, asking if I’d like a copy of her new book in exchange for a review here on my blog. I was honored and looked forward to cracking open her book. However, I kept setting it aside because I mistakenly thought I needed a lot of time to read it. Wrong!
Clara is an artist and an adjunct professor at the Rhode Island School of Design. Learn, Create, and Teach: A Guide to Building a Creative Life is a treasure full of short snippets of advice that are applicable to anyone on a creative path. Clara’s goal in publishing her book is to “offer concrete strategies to foster your creative drive.” She says that “at every point in one’s creative arc, there is always something to learn, something to create, and something to teach. The three intertwined roles of ‘student,’ ‘professional,’ and ‘teacher’ are critical to living a creative life.” She offers suggestions for each of these roles by devoting a section to each in ”chapters” of brief tips (each one is no more than a page and a half) numbered 1 to 60.
Since I’m sure Clara wouldn’t look too kindly on me sharing half of her book with you, I’ll tell you my top 3 or 4 tips that resonated with me from each section:
For the student -
#9. Make bad work – “Things often become much worse before they get better.” and “Accept the fact that bad work is going to happen and that perfectionism inherently restricts your ability to take risks.” What a relief that other people make junk too! Not everything has to be worth of being hung up or blogged about. :)
#15. Never apologize for your work – “Don’t judge your work for other people; let them judge it first.” I’d say this is sooooo true for women especially. We apologize so much for everything and do not give ourselves enough credit for successes!
#18. See every assignment as an opportunity – “Your work should be an opportunity, not an obligation.” I really like that perspective.
#23. Learn from your peers – “Take the initiative to create a supportive community with your peers and use each other to develop momentum and energy in your classes. The people who surround you are indicative of who you are and what you aspire to be.“ How amazing a statement is that?! Many of my classes have private Facebook groups and they really do add so much more value to the class. We encourage each other and make so many new connections.
#27. Never, ever stop making your art – “I would rather be making the worst art I could possibly imagine than making nothing at all. It’s perilous to halt your productivity.” and the excellent idea to leave something unfinished at the end of the day to have something to draw you into your studio the next day.
#35. Treat everyone like a teacher – “Develop a constant hunger for new experiences and approaches.” I like the idea that, no matter who it is, everyone and every thing has something to teach you.
#37. Find or create a network of artists – While Clara states that Internet relationships don’t have the depth you need to foster a strong professional relationship, I have found them to be at least the beginning. I haven’t reached out to my local art community yet, but she suggests going to open studio events, gallery openings, and lectures.
#38. Be knowledgeable of work beyond your own – “The reality is that everything has been done, so why not get as much as you can from what appeared previously?” This idea of building upon what came before and using it as a point of departure is a valuable one.
For the teacher -
#45. Start tough – Clara says the first day of class is crucial. “Set high expectations and clear objectives… Firmly communicate what is required…” I just used this in my parenting to huge success. Rather than starting lenient and growing firm to get the desired behavior from my daughter, it would have been far better in the reverse!
#59. Be multidimensional – “Have a predictable structure to your class but allow room for spontaneity. Be serious but be willing to be silly.” Again, using this in parenting my daughter.
#60. Tap into your personal perspective – Relating back to my own experiences rather than telling her what to do really helps my daughter understand and get a better picture of a situation, way better than abstract descriptions do. Hearing a story of how I overcame shyness as a child helps reassure her that I understand and that “with persistence and tenacity, improvement and growth will occur.”
Clara intended her advice to be for artists, but I think everyone would find many wise gems in it that would apply to their own jobs and lives. In short, this little book is a treasure and a quick-read resource for just about anybody. I recommend it and I’m so glad Clara reached out to me.
I’d love to pass it along to one of you! Please let me know in the comments how you could benefit from this book. (I did mark a few paragraphs here and there, so if you would prefer a clean copy, of course I encourage you to buy it!)
Update: Congrats to Stacie Spencer for winning the giveaway!