Here is a photo I took at the Richmond Airport sometime during the Keep Going tour. It’s not exactly a secret sentence, but one way I thought of the structure of the book was: the first half is about stopping the bleeding, and the second half is about beginning to heal…
“I keep thinking that I shall have no more to say,” said philosopher Mary Midgley, “and then finding some wonderfully idiotic doctrine which I can contradict.” She admitted it was “a negative approach, as they say, but one that doesn’t seem to run out.”
She was 81 when she said that. She wrote well into her 90s.
This is what writing often is for me: Making a list of everything stupid and idiotic that someone else is saying and then sitting down and trying to articulate the exact opposite.
There. Now you know my secret!
It became a welcome ritual, a ballast against the chaos of the everyday. And like any worthwhile practice — marriage, creativity, compassion — it engendered the kind of patience that lets you see how life is something to be managed, not conquered. You might finish a load, but you’ll almost always have another one coming.
(Every day is Groundhog Day.)
[M]ost of life is ordinary… ordinary isn’t the enemy but instead something nourishing and unavoidable, the bedrock upon which the rest of experience ebbs and flows.
One thing I didn’t even consider when writing Keep Going is that people would read the “Airplane Mode can be a Way of Life” chapter on an actual airplane!
My friend Kio Stark, author of the books Don’t Go Back To School and When Strangers Meet, sent me a message yesterday and I asked her if I could share it here. (Maybe we’ll make this a regular thing? We’ll see.) Here’s what she said:
I just wrote a new strangers newsletter, and not having sent one in 6 months, I realized that writing it is one of my best “keep going” strategies. It’s small and doable, and reminds me that I am good at writing. Because it’s about documenting interactions with strangers, it also pushes me to pay more attention when I’m out in public with other humans.
It started as a blog in 2009 — they were very short back then — as a way to keep in touch with my writing self while I had a day job. I used to write them on my lunch hour. They were maybe 100-150 words tops. The newsletter ones now are longer because I don’t have a day job anymore…
I recorded a DJ set for My KUTX in early 2017, and it was one of the highlights of my year, so I was thrilled that Art Levy invited me back into the studio to do a set of songs that kept me going while writing Keep Going.
Art also had some really kind words for the book:
Zine-like in appearance, jumbling together comics, poetry, and artistic advice. The homemade aesthetic and Kleon’s sense of humor help these books transcend the self-help genre that they’re nominally filed under. Kleon’s new book, Keep Going, is especially potent, the kind of book that desperately needed to be written right now. Its starting point is the dilemma that a lot of people are facing: how do we keep making art in a world that just keeps getting messier, and what role does creativity play during anxious times?
Here I am in the studio and here’s the setlist:
A few days ago the big box of author copies of Keep Going arrived on my front step. This is one of my favorite points in the book timeline. I’m trying to savor the moment of holding something in my hand that I feel is the very best I can do.
Here’s the beginning of a Robert Frost’s “A Prayer in Spring”:
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
It’s spring outside, but the harvest is in, and it is a good one.
If you pre-order the book before midnight EST April 1, my friends at Workman will send you a free 8″ x 10″ print of my blackout poem, “Overheard on the Titanic.” (“I mean yes we’re sinking / but the music is exceptional.”) Details here. Pre-order sale is now over! (If you want a mini 6″ x 6″ print, tear out the page in Keep Going.)
Here’s a closer look at the print:
We were having dinner and I was trying to think up ideas for a Keep Going book trailer and I thought, “Why not just have Owen letter it?” (He’s six.) I asked him and he said sure and we shot it right there at the kitchen table and I edited it on my laptop in the bathroom while he took a tub. (I’m not sure if it’s going to be the book trailer, but it’s a book trailer!)