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How Reading Wakes Us Up, Why Day Jobs are Good for Artists, & Notes on Organizing Your Reference Materials

Resource: Anaïs Nin on How Reading Awakens Us from the Slumber of Almost-Living
Description: Books arouse us from spiritual slumber


What most of call “living” is really a socially acceptable form of hibernating.

The symptoms of being in hibernation-mode are restlessness and absence of pleasure.

Books are a way of waking us up without using shock. Books stretch the boundaries of our imagination and beckon us to live wakefully.


“You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book (Lady Chatterley, for instance), or you take a trip, or you talk with [someone], and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death.” -Anaïs Nin

“Some never awaken. They are like the people who go to sleep in the snow and never awaken. But I am not in danger because my home, my garden, my beautiful life do not lull me. I am aware of being in a beautiful prison, from which I can only escape by writing.” -Anaïs Nin

Resource: Back to the Cave (Transcription of a speech by Frank Chimero).
Description: Chimero on why artists need community and why it’s good to have a day job.


Creative hunger is the need to create. A person has a case of creative hunger if they can be at ease without being involved in the process of building something. Some people have/understand creative hunger. Some don’t.

Creators need community. You can go go so far along the creative path with feedback, support, collaboration, and stimulating conversation.

Our human need to make things is ultimately inexplicable.

Working a job outside of the arts is not a disgrace. It is a disservice to ourselves and others to think disparagingly of so-called odd jobs or other preoccupations that don’t directly relate to our creative projects and artistic endeavors.


“You know kids: going places they don’t belong, finding things they shouldn’t, then taking those things and immediately putting them in their mouth. On one hand: yeah, gross—drool, germs, etc. But on the other, infants and toddlers put stuff in their mouth to better understand it. Everything is new, so they must use all of their senses. After a little Wikipedia time, I learned infants mouth things to sooth themselves and develop the motor coordination in their mouths that are necessary to speak. So now I have a new way to explain the compulsion to make things. Making things is putting the world in your mouth. I make things for the same reasons babies put things in their mouths: to better understand the world, to sooth ourselves, and learn what to say.”

“Community is critical for creative folks because creating the work is so inwardly focused. Each of us needs something to pull us out of ourselves, and we will invent batshit ways to do it if we don’t have community. I’ve worked in seclusion before, and after about two weeks, I’m talking to the house plants about my projects and imagining what internet strangers will think of my work instead of my friends and peers. Participating in a community becomes a way to let some sympathetic people into your process so you don’t go crazy, while still protecting the work in its unfinished and fragile state. I see community as people working parallel to one another, sharing information and resources freely with each other. This is how useful information spreads around and how creative people find new opportunities. Nobody knows how to make a community like creative people. We invented the scene.”

“Many people presume that employment is the opposite of independence, and that endlessly irritates me. It’s so short-sighted. History shows a long record of artists who did “normal” work to support their creative practice. If you work as a barista, graphic designer, or accountant to fund your writing or music: great! (You can swap out any of those job titles or passions with your own.) By keeping your day job, you’re in the fine company of T.S. Eliot, Herman Melville, Toni Morrison, and more.”

“There are a lot of good reasons to keep a job going while you make your work, especially if you have kids or you’re not fortunate enough to be young and healthy. But there’s one other important benefit to the unrelated day job: when it comes to your art, you don’t have to take any shit from anybody. You can honor any creative impulse because your paycheck is never on the line. Go nuts, make crazy shit. What’s more independent than that?”

“I worry about our focus on meaningful work. I think that’s possible for some of us, but I don’t want us to locate the meaningfulness of our lives in our work. I think that was a 20th-Century trap. I’m very committed and fond of the language of vocation, which I think became narrowly tied to our job titles in the 20th Century. Our vocations or callings as human beings may be located in our job descriptions, but they may also be located in how we are present to whatever it is we do.” -Krista Tippett.

“Vocation is as much about who you are and how you are as it is about what you do. Bliss is an attitude, a disposition, so meaning comes from a way of being and is not a consequence of producing work. You make the art, the art does not make you.”

Resource: Getting Things Done by David Allen
Description: Non-actionable items — Organizing your reference system


Distinguishing actionable items from non-actionable items is essential to the effectiveness of your system. Nothing works if you haven’t separated the things you need to do something about from the things you don’t need to do anything about.

You can have as many reference materials as you wish, so long as you have the space to contain it and the time to file it.

Ease of retrieval is the key to where you file reference materials. Think about where you’ll likely be located and what you’ll likely be doing when you need the materials in your reference material.


“Interestingly, one of the biggest problems with most people’s personal management systems is that they blend a few actionable things with a large amount of data and material that has value but no action attached. Having good, consistent structures with which to manage the nonactionable items in our work and lives is as important as managing our action and project reminders. When the nonactionable items aren’t properly managed, they clog up the whole process. “

“The problem most people have psychologically with all their stuff is that it’s still stuff—that is, they haven’t decided what’s actionable and what’s not. Once you’ve made a clean distinction about which is which, what’s left as reference should have no pull or incompletion associated with it—it’s just your library. Your only decision then is how big a library you want. “

“increasing the volume of pure reference material adds no psychological weight. “

“Your reference and filing system should be a simple library of data, easily retrievable—not your reminder for actions, projects, priorities, or prospects. “

“your general-reference system must be informal and accessible enough that it’s a snap to file something away, right at hand where you do your work and personal administration and review. “

“The Web itself is nothing more than a huge digital filing cabinet, which both relieves the need to create your own digital reference library and produces a huge amount of the type of information that you will likely want to collect and organize within your own system. The ever-increasing plethora of information and ways to access and organize it only forces the necessity to distinguish nonactionable from actionable inputs, and to create and maintain an easily usable system of reference data storage. “

“As digital as the world seems to have become, many people still have stacks of collected business cards that are subtly yelling at them, “Decide something about me! Do something with me!”

“If material is purely for reference, the only issue is whether it’s worth the time and space to keep it. “

“Distinguishing actionable from nonactionable things is the first key success factor in this arena. Second is determining what your potential use of the information is, and therefore where and how it should be stored. Once these are addressed, you have total freedom to manage and organize as much or as little reference material as you want. “

“Tolerate some ambiguity here, in terms of figuring out the best way to do it all. The key will be some regular overviewing and reassessment of your system, and dynamically course-correcting as needed. “

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