This Week In Artists In Conversation: Books To Spark Your Creativity To New Heights
Artists in Conversation is a weekly column running Wednesdays on QuadCities.com.
It features a conversation with a local creator or creators going into their artistic process, projects and more. Get to know your local arts scene and local creators better on QuadCities.com with Artists In Conversation!
If you’re a local creator and would like to be featured, please email us at Sean@QuadCities.com or Tristan@QuadCities.com!
I am an artist.
You are an artist.
And this is a conversation.
So, technically it’s still Artists in Conversation… right?… This week’s feature has a little different
slant to it. If you’re like me, 2020 took a toll on many aspects of your life and if you’re like me,
you were always looking for some inspiration or something to keep you going. One of the things
that helped me through were some projects, I guess (Circa’s Music on the Marquee comes to
mind), but mostly… books. I wanted to share my top 5 books for artists for a troubling time, or
anytime really. My top 5 that helped my little spark of creativity turn into a flame.
1. Greenlights – Matthew McConaughey – Unexpected, shocking, funny, heart-wrenching…
everything … This “memoir” (I hate to call it that) is really something special. Greenlights
originated from the diaries, journals, photos, bumper stickers of the one and only
Matthew McConaughey. The Academy Award winning actor began writing when he was
fourteen years old and explores some homelife stories, some Hollywood inside baseball
and includes some classic McConaughey tangents. It’s become my new bible for riding it
out on this planet and how to turn red and yellow lights into green.
“We all have scars, we gonna have more. Rather than struggle against time and waste it,
let’s dance with time and redeem it. Cause we don’t live longer when we try not to die. We
live longer when we are too busy living.”
2. Outside the Jukebox – Scott Bradlee – From the creator of the sensation Postmodern
Jukebox – Scott Bradlee – this inspirational memoir about discovering what you love and
turning it into a creative movement came into my life in December pre-Covid, but set me
up for taking on the challenges of saying “F the Gatekeepers! I am doing this myself!’ in
a post-Covid world. Bradlee takes us through the false starts, near misses, hilarious
onstage and backstage antics, and timely yet unexpected breakthroughs all the while
presenting all the artist-driven entrepreneurial insights he learned along the way. If you’re
looking to make a good of it in any aspect of show business, this is THE book for you.
“If you can find a way to smile through the let downs, learn from the disasters, and – above all – stay loyal to the people you care about, you’ll discover that you’re unstoppable. Life is messy, and we’re all just a bunch of creeps and weirdos. And that’s
okay. We are perfect just the way we are. Now go forth and make art.”
3. A Life in Parts – Bryan Cranston – Cranston chronicles is meandering journey to
becoming a an Academy Award nominee and Tony Award winner and his later-in-life
show biz success by recounting his first gig when he was 5 to his abandonment of the
arts to his re-entry and his long road to being “an overnight success.” For those of us
(ME) still longing for bigger things to come later in my show biz life, it was THE perfect
book to read when the pandemic paralyzed my industry and stopped any kind of forward
“That’s the life. That’s why talent alone doesn’t cut it. If you want to be a successful
actor, mental toughness is essential. Lay your whole self-worth on getting the role, on
the illusion of validation, before long you’re left angry, resentful, and jealous. You’re
4. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens – Alright, alright, alright… I know… it’s old and
everyone knows it, but I highly, highly recommend revisiting this old gem. There are
lesson upon lessons upon lessons in this classic (it’s a classic for a reason) and
sometimes we need to put ourselves in the shoes of Scrooge, of Bob Cratchit, of the
ghosts even to be reminded of what compassion is from all sides. I read this at least
once every year (it is my favorite book) and since March of 2020 when all hell broke
lose, I read it 3 times…
“No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunities misused.”
-Jacob Marley, A Christmas Carol
5. How to Succeed in the Arts… Or in Anything – Ken Davenport – Ken has had a
fascinating career and chronicles how he became a Tony Award winning producer by
taking risks, being a bold business man and generally… just… doing something instead
of waiting for “his turn at the table.” He caters to those of trying to make it alone without a
“Ken, just start. Produce something. Produce anything. But start. NOW”
-Hal Prince to Ken Davenport
The Ride of a Lifetime – Bob Iger
Your Favorite Band – Sean Leary
What’s Eating Johnny Depp? – Nigel Goodall
Secrets of a Life On Stage and Off – Ed Dixon
Andy Kaufman Revealed – Bob Zmuda
What have you been reading this past year to get you through?
I would love to know! Let’s talk: email@example.com.
The rest of 2021 is full of dreams that 2020 (and the first part of 2021) squashed and I can’t see
all of mine and all of yours come true. Hopefully 2020 will be just an awkward chapter in our
book we will all inevitably write…