Make the Most Beautiful Thing You Can: Update March 25, 2019

“None of us know what will happen. Don’t spend time worrying about it. Make the most beautiful thing you can. Try to do that every day. That’s it.” ~Laurie Anderson

That’s one of the many quotes in Austin Kleon’s latest book, Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Both Good Times and Bad. I just received my copy in the mail, and I’m enjoying it immensely. Its message of focus and perseverance in the day-to-day is something I think every artist and writer needs.

Tolkien’s vision of beauty spilled over into his illustrations as well as his writing. Photo Credit:

Kleon himself is an artist, father, writer (his first book about art, Steal Like an Artist, was a New York Times best-seller), and book lover whose books and newsletter I recommend. He has a knack for finding insightful quotes on just about any conceivable aspect of creativity. Recently, for example, he shared the following words from John Waters on the art of reading: “People say, ‘How do you have time to read?’ Oh, come on, it’s simple! You’re single and you don’t watch television.” To which I would add: you’re an adult and you mute social media. (Blogging is cool, though.)

Speaking of reading, I finished The Forever War, an award-winning sci-fi novel by Joe Haldeman. It is somewhat similar to Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers in its portrayal of space marine life and technology, and yet it’s quite different, too: grittier, more crass, more cynical towards the competence of the military. The venerable William Gibson was right that to classify it as a sci-fi war novel is to “damn it with faint praise.” Despite its futuristic premise, there is plenty of military speak in it—along with an awareness of the limitations of human ingenuity and the sheer drudgery and ugliness of war—to appeal to the realists out there.

Also, in case you missed it, I wrote a post about The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a book from 2006 that made the New York Times’ list of best books of the year. The book inspired me enough to change my shopping and eating habits, and to spend more money at our local farmers market. Just how long this behavior lasts is another question. Brief excerpt:

“In order to do what Pollan suggests, we’ll need more than money and a paradigm shift. We can learn about the wretched conditions of farm animals and the threat of industrial agriculture to the environment, but that doesn’t mean much unless we can retrain our tastes and our habits to eschew cheap produce and processed foods in favor of sustainable meat and vegetables. It is kind of like trying to spend less time on TV and social media: you know that it’s generally much better for you to do so, but you’re immersed in habits, routines, and cultural messages that work directly against that decision. We will need to form new desires, and to see food preparation as a joy of life—as something worth taking slowly.

What I’m doing at work: Converting PDF content to HTML, researching and implementing changes to our data transfer documentation, and enhancing an existing product guide with a range of improvements and new details. Evaluating a loooonng backlog of work to prioritize next quarter.

What I’m doing in my spare time: I have a non-fiction essay that I’m wrapping up. I hope to pitch it to a few venues in the next couple weeks. On the creative front, I’m chipping away at the final chapters of my novel.

What I’m reading: Same as my last update, except I’m finished with Haldeman and am working my way through Kleon’s new release.

Article of the week: The New Social Network that Isn’t New at All. Spoiler: there seems to be a renewed interest in newsletters. I fervently hope this interest becomes widespread.

Quote of the week:

Worship, then, is about contemplating who God is and what he’s done, standing in awe and expressing that awe in thanks and praise. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, this always begins with praise to God as creator. Every step of scientific advance should increase this chorus of praise (instead of what happens at the moment, that every new scientific discovery leads someone to claim that this has disproved God’s existence!). God isn’t part of the natural order, though his presence permeates it. Rather, he is other than and outside it, as different from it, and hence from us, as we are from microbes and atoms – only far more so, since they and we are, at one level, all part of the same stuff. God’s power holds together the deepest and the highest places on earth, the unfathomable vastness of the sea and the wonderfully sculpted dry land in all its variety.

~NT Wright commenting on Psalm 95, in Lent for Everyone: Matthew, Year A