Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Becoming a Life Change Artist : a review

Becoming a Life Change Artist : 7 creative skills to reinvent yourself at any stage of life by Fred Mandell and Kathleen Jordan (2010)

The basic premise of this book is that there are certain skills necessary to make successful life changes and they are the same skills used by the great artists in their processes of creating art. Just as the great artists had to learn those skills, so too can we learn them. We are all artists facing the canvas of a fresh day and need to call on our creativity to solve our problems.

The authors first lay out the process of life change: identifying your creative dilemma, exploration, discovery, and integrating what you have learned into your life. Then they introduce the seven skills needed in order to navigate that process, and devote a chapter to each one. The skills are: preparation, seeing, using context, embracing uncertainty, risk taking, collaboration and discipline. For each skill chapter, they talk a little about the particular skill, share a story of how one or two artists used that skill in their work, and then examples illustrating how regular people have used that skill in making life changes. Each chapter ends with exercises to help develop that skill, which in most case consist of questions for reflection.

Although the introduction talks about being in the “third age” of life, it is clearly useful to people at any stage. In fact, rather than being a guide for people going through major life changes, I think it is helpful simply for life management. These skills and qualities would be helpful for anyone, going through changes or not.

What I most appreciated is that unlike many books in this genre, this one did not try to be spiritual and New Age-y. There was no jargon, no unnecessary capitalization of common nouns (i.e. “Get ready for your Life Journey!” etc) or any other typical quirks that result in lots of eye rolling on my part. I really enjoyed the stories about artists, their lives and circumstances, and how their art changed over time. These stories added a dimension that most books of this sort do not have.

I would potentially read this again, or at least parts of it, and I’m glad I read it in paper format. There are a lot of pictures (though black and white) and for some reason I really liked the tactile experience of it - it was exactly the right weight and flexibility and texture. But of course the information would be just as good electronically.

I hadn’t heard of this book until I saw a friend post it on goodreads, so thanks to Ingrid for the suggestion!

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