Real Artists Don't Starve by Jeff Goins

Real Artists Don't Starve by Jeff Goins

Quick Summary

To be successful as a creator of any kind you have to find a way to join or create a network of other successful people. Success doesn’t happen in isolation, it happens when a group of people come together and build each other up. This book teaches a few fundamental beliefs and strategies that anybody can use to reach a wider audience over time.


Big Picture

It is possible to make money as an artist, but to do that you have to have the right mindset and a good strategy. This book lays the foundation for both.

A loose overview of the process outlined:

  1. Believe you can do it. Your beliefs about who you are and what you do shape your actions, and your actions shape who you are and what you believe about yourself. It’s a cycle that can be either good or bad depending on how you use it.
  2. Create amazing things. To do that, steal like an artist by learning how to imitate successful people. Learn from everyone else, then apply those techniques to your own work and build up a portfolio of effort.
  3. Find a mentor. Once you’ve proven that you can put in the work and that you’re capable of creating amazing things, reach out to people you admire and would like to have an apprenticeship with. People like helping people who have already proven they’ll put in the work, so do the work before reaching out.
  4. Join or create a network of other successful people. Success is found when like-minded communities rally around each other and lift each other to new heights. As I mentioned in the quick summary, one of the main points Goins makes is that success doesn’t happen in isolation.

What Makes You an Artist?

It’s not a single piece that makes you a successful creator. It’s your entire body of work that matters. Focus on the big picture.

What we believe about ourselves has a way of becoming true. A classic Henry Ford quote says, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” If you want to be a writer, start thinking of yourself as a writer. If you want to be a developer, start thinking of yourself as a developer. These beliefs shape our actions and our actions shape our lives.

Your belief in who you are determines who you become. If you change your core identity and begin to think of yourself as “the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts,” then suddenly not missing workouts is one of the key driving forces in your life. If you think of yourself as the type of person who watches a lot of TV when they should be doing other things, then watching TV instead of being productive will line up with your core identity and it will be much harder to break out of that cycle.

How Do You Begin a Creative Career?

Small, sustainable changes lead to small, sustainable progress. Small steps quickly add up into major leaps. It’s unlikely that you’ll write an entire novel in a single day, but a page a day for one year would be a 365 page book. Little things add up.

Creativity is all about rearranging other people’s ideas into your own words. Taking ideas, switching their context, combining them with your own experiences and connecting them to other ideas is how new ideas get formed. All creative work relies heavily on building upon the ideas of others.

Being able to perfectly forge the work of a master is an elite skill. Only by learning from, copying, and eventually combining the techniques of the masters can we ever become a master ourselves. To quickly grow as an artist, a writer, or anything, look to create perfect forgeries. Then, take those fundamental skills you learned and apply them in new ways that are uniquely you.

Become an Apprentice

In every pursuit there is a “learning phase” — and the best way to learn is from the masters. Remember, forgery is an art form that we can use to learn techniques, rules, and systems that will ultimately lead us to success. Before you can become a master yourself, you MUST become an apprentice.

Find someone you want to apprentice under. Before you ask them for help, read everything they’ve written. Try out all the strategies they’ve ever recommended. Build up a portfolio of effort by doing all the things they suggest doing. Once you have all that, reach out to them and show them your results. If they like what you’re doing, ask them for help. People like to help people who first help themselves.

Create or Join a Network of Success

Success isn’t found in isolation. Being talented isn’t enough if nobody ever finds your work. Be public about what you’re doing and make sure that your work is getting in front of the right people. Look for the tastemakers and the community leaders who can appreciate your work and recommend it to their followers. People trust the opinions of “experts”, and getting experts to have positive, public reviews of your work is the key to success.

Location is everything. The choice of where to live can have a massive effect on your output, your group of friends, your access to mentors, your happiness, your productivity, and everything else. It’s an important decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

To be successful, you have to (you absolutely must) find a way to join or create a network of other successful people. Success doesn’t happen in isolation, it happens when a group of people come together and build each other up.