Book Review: Real Artists Don’t Starve

“If you’re waiting for your moment, don’t. Start now. If you’re wondering if you had to be born to paint or sing or dance, you don’t. You just have to choose to become someone else, if the role you’re playing isn’t the one you wanted. You don’t become an artist by moving to New York City without a penny to your name. You become an artist because you decide that’s what you’re going to be, and then you do the work.”

So says Jeff Goins in his wonderful book, Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age. Goins insists no one has to choose between a creative life and making a living. Drawing lessons from creatives like Jim Henson and C.S. Lewis, Goins reveals an empowering truth; real artists don’t starve, they thrive. Most notably, he reveals some truths about artists like Michelangelo and Shakespeare. Did you know Michelangelo was actually wealthy? I didn’t, having always imagined he was, yes, a starving artist of his day.

real artists

As I am studying the subject of creativity for my own book, I was particularly interested in his mention of the research done by famous psychologist Paul Torrance. When working at a military academy he noted that the students with high energy and a lot of ideas were being labeled as deviant. That bothered him so much, he began what became a lifelong study, exploring the connection between misfit behavior and creative potential. Torrance believed that creativity could exist in all areas of life, and that anyone could be creative. He observed how creative individuals tended to struggle in systems that force them to comply to rules they didn’t understand.

“The creative kids are the ones who rail against the rules the hardest,” Bonnie Cramond, a former student of Torrance, said in summarizing her teacher’s findings. “Creative kids have no patience with ridiculous rules. They don’t see any purpose in it.”

Professor Torrance concluded that it was very difficult to be creative in certain settings, particularly schools.

This conclusion supports other research I have unearthed as I’ve studied the concept of creativity.

Learn more about Jeff Goins at, and sign up for his weekly updates on creativity and writing.

A Mother’s Creative Legacy

Legacy of creativity
Wednesday, June 14, Ruth Suckow Memorial Library, Earlville, Iowa, 6:30 pm.

Living a Legacy of Creativity, with author Mary Potter Kenyon
Growing up, little Mary Potter frequented the stacks of the Earlville library, with the goal of reading every single book on the shelves. By the time she began working there as a teen, she’d come close. With parents who encouraged book-reading, and a mother who demonstrated uncommon creativity in her everyday life, Mary dreamed of becoming a writer and librarian someday. Now, she is both. Potter Kenyon will encourage, inspire, and entertain with a power point presentation on how a legacy of creativity fed a dream that would result in hundreds of published pieces in newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and five traditionally published books, including the award-winning “Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace.”

I’m working on this power point presentation this morning. I’ll be presenting it at library in the small town I grew up in. With classical music playing in the background, I arrange slides that include photos of my mother’s creative endeavors; the woodcarvings, quilts, paintings, pastel portraits, and even a teddy bear made from a coat I used to wear as a child.

I’m revising the power point I’d designed and presented to a group of homeschooling mothers in early 2012, a month before my husband died.  That presentation was in homage to my mother who’d passed away in November 2010, leaving a legacy of creativity and faith behind. As the “keeper of her words,” I’d inherited some of her notebooks and a Memory Book that made it clear that her greatest desire was for her children and grandchildren to utilize their God-given talents in their walk to Heaven’s gate. It was evident she held no doubt that each of them possessed talent.

That had been the central theme of my presentation to young mothers; the reminder that each of them had talent that could be worked into their everyday life. I’d later present a modified version to a group of women who were of retirement age. The young mothers had complained “they didn’t have time” and the older women lamented that “it was too late,” neither of which is true, of course.  We can make time for what is important to us, and it is never too late.

I had no idea then that I would lose the man who had become the wind beneath my creative wings, or that the outline of my presentation would become the framework for a future book encouraging women, young and old alike, to utilize their own creativity. Nor could I have imagined then that I would eventually form a lifelong learning group for the same purpose, but that’s exactly what has transpired. On my off hours at home, I’m developing a book proposal for a book on creativity. At work, I’m in the midst of planning a “Creativity Circle” that will begin meeting in the Dyersville library in September.

I might have had no idea what was in store, but God did. He went before me, and was with me through it all. I haven’t forgotten the faith part of the legacy my mother left. My walk Home might not resemble hers, but neither of us would claim our respective talents came from anywhere but God, The Creator. In preparing to write my book proposal, I’m immersing myself in dozens of books on creativity. I’m amazed to discover how many authors go to great lengths to avoid attributing talent and creativity to the ultimate Creator, instead talking about the Universe, or the power within.

Exodus 35:30-33 “Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts.”