Book Review: Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age, by Jeff Goins

Real Artists Don't StarveIn Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age, author Jeff Goins encourages artists of all varieties to forget what he calls “the myth of the starving artist” and start making steps toward being a “thriving artist.” I imagine many readers may find at least one thing helpful, motivating, and/or inspiring, but the work in its entirety is often contradictory and unconvincing—not once is it demonstrated that anyone ever has or will travel the entire path anecdotally articulated by Goins. While many aspiring and current career artists (emphasis on career) will relate to one story or another, careful readers will see how data has been cherry picked and organized in such a way that presents the best evidence for the agenda of each chapter. There is no cohesive link that connects all attributes of the “thriving artist” as articulated, although attempts are made to use Michelangelo as the test case. Ultimately, Goins desires artists to be smart, flexible, and business savvy, which is great; however, life context is not the same for everyone, and the “starving artist” is a reality, not a myth, for numerous reasons. While we may certainly desire that artists (at least the good ones, as we perceive them) have a path for obtaining a wonderfully prosperous and fulfilling career, it simply isn’t and won’t be the case for everyone.

The book is outlined as follows (my words in parentheses):

Introduction: Myth of the Starving Artist (Except that it’s a reality, and Goins acknowledges this in the text. I think the whole book simply demonstrates his desire is to make it a myth, which would be great.)

Part 1: Mind-Set
1 You Aren’t Born an Artist (This is really addressing careers, not artistic talent.)
2 Stop Trying to Be Original (We learn from history, so use history. There’s little to no originality in the world, but there’s a lot or organizing and rearranging. I don’t think that means we don’t try to be original.)
3 Apprentice Under a Master (Yes, please! This path will often require contradiction between other points in the book, but it’s one we desperately need to bring back in Western culture.)
4 Harness Your Stubbornness (This doesn’t mean you let go of principles and ideals, but an artist must remain flexible in the many details of a career as an artist.)

Part 2: Market
5 Cultivate Patrons (Easier for extroverts and the less humble—not the same thing, by the way—this can be tough, but a necessity for a career. Find people who like and want to spread your work.)
6 Go Join a Scene (Easier said than done. Single folks will find this to be a lot easier than those with spouses and families. Still, we need beauty everywhere, not just in metropolitan pockets.)
7 Collaborate with Others (It’s extremely helpful and often necessary to further one’s skills, ideas, etc.)
8 Practice in Public (This goes with chapter 5—another hard one, but helpful in the proper contexts.)

Part 3: Money (The really hard part.)
9 Don’t Work for Free (Unless you have to, which is one of the biggest problems. The anecdotes used in this chapter are of those well into their careers, not those just starting out.)
10 Own Your Work (Another difficult one, and something one should definitely work toward if able. Again, anecdotes used here are of those able to do so.)
11 Diversify Your Portfolio (As with many careers, one often discoveries one must be able to do more than one thing—art, marketing, business, etc.)
12 Make Money to Make Art (Some will need a second job to make art while others will make enough—or more than enough—with their art to make more. Stuff requires money, so you’re going to need it. It’s simple economics.)

Conclusion: Join the New Renaissance (Go buck the system! Or stay as you are. You know, whatever works for your career and ideals.)

In the endnotes, Goins provides a link for the sources and data used for this book: dontstarve.com/tools

 

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Review: Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation?: Discussing Origins with Reasons to Believe and BioLogos, edited by Kenneth Keathley, J. B. Stump, and Joe Aguirre

Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation?Edited by Kenneth Keathley, J. B. Stump, and Joe Aguirre, Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation?: Discussing Origins with Reasons to Believe and BioLogos is a moderated (Southern Baptist Convention), two-view presentation and discussion between two “Christian” organizations (BioLogos and Reasons to Believe) in agreement with evolutionary theory in general and an understanding of the earth as being billions of years old, but they are in disagreement over what all that necessarily means and how we (humans) became we are in particular, especially regarding what it means to be “made in the image of God.” BioLogos members believe all life, including humans, have a common ancestor; Reasons to Believe (RTB) members believe humans were created as special beings separate and apart from an evolutionary process.

WHO ARE THEY?
BioLogos is quite a diverse group with no central board of scholars dictating their beliefs and findings to others. Their “core commitments” are relatively broad:

  • We embrace the historical Christian faith, upholding the authority and inspiration of the Bible.
  • We affirm evolutionary creation, recognizing God as Creator of all life over biollions of years.
  • We seek truth, ever learning as we study the natural world and the Bible.
  • We strive for humility and gracious dialogue with those who hold other views.
  • We aim for excellence in all areas, from science to education to business practices.

When an author writes from the perspective of BioLogos, he or she often includes a caveat that not all within the organization may agree on the specifics (or even in general, as the case may be). The organization’s focus is primarily on educating Christians in the “both-and” of science and Scripture in hopes of ending or smoothing controversies surrounding both and the fear and/or disdain many have for evolutionary theory.

Reasons to Believe is rather exclusive with only a small team of four scientists (Fazale Rana, Anjeanette Roberts, Hugh Ross, Jeff Zweerink) and one theologian (Kenneth Samples) leading the pack. Requirements for participation include signing a four-page doctrinal statement (“explicitly Protestant and evangelical, patterned after Reformation creeds, but allows for diversity of views on eschatology, spiritual gifts, and the paradox of human free will and divine predestination”) with a view of biblical inerrancy as articulated by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, a Christian behavior contract, and RTB’s mission statement. When an author writes from the perspective of RTB, it is assumed all are in agreement. The organization’s focus is evangelizing non-Christians into a saving relationship with Jesus.

CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS
Southern Baptist Convention: Ted Cabal, James Dew, Ken Keathley, John Laing, Steve Lemke, Robert Stewart
BioLogos: Darrel Falk, Deborah Haarsma, Loren Haarsma, Jeff Schloss, Ralph Stearley, J. B. Stump, John Walton
Reasons to Believe: Fazale “Fuz” Rana, Hugh Ross, Kenneth Samples, Jeff Zweerink

ABOUT THE BOOK
Though not likely to convince and swing young-earth and “literal six-day” creationists to an old-earth perspective, it proves helpful in better understanding the two provided views in general and in pointing to much needed further detailed and precise information (see footnotes and bibliography for sources). The format of each chapter includes an SBC moderator introduction with questions, a response from a BioLogos author followed by the RTB response, a redirect with clarifications and questions from SBC, a response from BioLogos and RTB in the same order, and a conclusion from SBC. While authors BioLogos appear to be much more specific, detailed, and thorough than those from RTB, there simply isn’t enough time or space for fully articulated arguments and responses, and I wonder if the discussion would have been any different if the order had alternated between BioLogos and RTB responses. It would also have been helpful had the authors been able to edit their responses to better suit the moderator’s questions as intended rather than some moderator conclusions ending with something akin to “I must have been misunderstood” or “my questions weren’t really answered.” It definitely reads as an ongoing conversation, which it is, than a thoroughly prepared articulation of two views, which it isn’t.

STARTING WITH THE END
Some people read the end/conclusion of a book before reading the first page, which I find intriguing, especially in regards to fiction in general and mystery in particular. While I am not one who practices this, I perceive a few things mentioned in this book’s final chapter to be helpful on both bookends. So, for the reader’s benefit, here are three quotes from the end that should prove beneficial before starting on page one:

“After participating in all of our conversations with Reasons to Believe and BioLogos and now after working through this book, which is the product of those conversations, I am struck by a number of things. To state the obvious, this issue is huge. The creation/evolution conversation is big in the sense of how broad and interdisciplinary the topics are.” – SBC moderator Kenneth Keathley

“We probably all felt frustrated at times, wondering, Why can’t you see the strength of my argument? or Why can’t you see the danger in your position? If the group had not established strong personal relationships and been committed to humility and Christian unity, we would not have been able to sustain true engagement and would have descended to talking past each other or rancorous debate. … In today’s public square and—sadly—in our churches, people are assign guilt by association, so that even talking with someone of a different view can be seen as an endorsement or agreement with that view. I admire the courage of everyone involved to continue our conversations despite the risks.” – BioLogos author Deborah Haarsma

“The issues addressed in this book are very big and controversial and, even for people with doctoral degrees in science or theology, can be confusing. Our goal in this book was twofold: to help remove some of the confusion and to demonstrate that important controversial disagreement can be addressed in a spirit of gentleness, respect, and love. … This book…is a two-views book but not a debate book. We purposely avoided long rebuttals and responses, recognizing that there is not enough room within a single volume to engage in sufficient depth to map out pathways for resolution of our differences. Our goal is to do that in future books.” – Reasons to Believe author Hugh Ross

RECOMMENDED?
While I remain unconvinced on many of the particulars, I did find the book helpful in better understanding some of my brothers and sisters in Christ and applaud the way in which all participants demonstrated the love of Christ. I look forward to delving into some of the more specialized and detailed sources cited.

 

*I received a temporary, unpublished digital copy (hence no page numbers for included quotations) for review from IVP Academic via NetGalley.

Book Review: The Altars Where We Worship: The Religious Experience of Popular Culture, by Juan M Floyd-Thomas, Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas, and Mark G. Toulouse

The Altars Where We WorshipPowerfully convicting for those of us (all of us?) who find ourselves falling into some form of idolatry at one point or another, The Altars Where We Worship: The Religious Experience of Popular Culture by Juan M. Floyd-Thomas, Stacey M Floyd-Thomas, and Mark G. Toulouse exposes six aspects of American culture as altars and religions. The book’s chapters follow these aspects: (1) Body and Sex, (2) Big Business, (3) Entertainment, (4) Politics, (5) Sports, and (6) Science and Technology. Using Ninian Smart’s seven dimensions of religion as outline in The Religious Experience of Mankind, the authors demonstrate each of the aforementioned by including supporting data for the following: mythology, doctrine, ethics, ritual, experience, institutions, and materiality.

The authors write, “Rather than trying to debunk these altars in any fashion, we believe it is important to recognize that these altars naturally connect with our human desire to locate the religious impulse in something we perceive to be greater than ourselves” (p.7). Just as the apostle Paul did not deny the perceived existence of many gods (1 Cor 8:5), the authors do not want us to deny that these exist and turn a blind eye to those that pull at us (or have completely taken hold, as the case may be). The authors continue:

We want to make clear that our approach is not interested in trying to define which religious experiences are true and which are not. In the chapters that follow, we examine six aspects of American culture that function essentially as “altars” where Americans gather to worship and produce meaning for their lives. At these altars, Americans reconcile themselves to a “serviceable God” who promises to meet their every desire. By examining the major players, fads, trends, movements, and events associated with each of these altars, each chapter will examine the religious inner workings of the popular cultural phenomenon associated with them. (p.13)

While their overall approach does not attempt to delineate those experiences as true or not true, the authors certainly make their opinions known when subjects concern their respective theologies. However, regardless of how these are read, it is important to take the book for what it is and as it is intended: describing six aspects of American culture in religious terms. Readers may find themselves convicted by an entire chapter(s), or perhaps just a few tidbits here and there. While it may be easy for some of us to recognize some things as merely practical participation in a thing without a necessary connection to a religious experience, these again should be understood as parts of a whole that support the way each of these greater culture aspects can—indeed do—very much function as altars and religions.

There’s a lot of good food for thought here, and I’m sure others will continue to find the same things in other aspects of their respective cultures.

 

*I received a temporary digital copy for review from Westminster John Knox Press via NetGalley.