The Artist in the Office Book Review

First, a disclaimer:

The book I was planning to review today is currently sitting on my coffee table with a bookmark in between pages 46 and 47.  Needless to say, life got in the way this week and I wasn’t able to finish it…so I’m reviewing the book I was going to review next week and I’ll save the unfinished book for next Friday.  Phew.


Five or six months ago, a very good friend of mine called me up and asked if I would be interested in joining an “Artist Collective.”

“It’s a group of people that get together once a month to talk about artistic goals and how we can help each other achieve them,” she said.  I loved the idea and told her to sign me up.

Our first meeting was so much fun.  Not only was our group made up of very close friends, but we just so happened to have a “representative” from various creative outlets:  actors, singers, a writer, a photographer, a cook, a painter, an environmentalist, many musicians, a world traveler, and even an engineer.  We spent the evening talking about dreams and goals…and how to find time in our hectic lives to embrace what we love.

After we took some time to write about the goals we wanted to achieve before the next month’s meeting, we went around the room and shared our thoughts.  One member, who is a choral director for a living, wanted to find some time to do some performing of her own; as a result, she found herself cast in a community theatre production of Oklahoma.  Another member who spends her days as a drama teacher missed being on stage and, before the next meeting, found time to do a little acting herself.  The engineer set a goal to get his first patent approved and the renegade cook made a goal to take a cooking class.  The photographer decided to finish his Web site and start promoting himself and the painter made the decision to make some drastic changes to his bedroom walls.  As for the writer, she made a goal to finish her first novel…and I did.

By sharing our artistic goals, no matter how small, we felt an urge to complete them…because we didn’t want to let down the rest of the group.  We all supported each other and went to various performances and readings of members of the other group.  We were each other’s backbones and I cherish every moment I spend with these people.

Of course, we had to have some structure.  Most of the people in the group are OCD as it is…and a meeting without a plan is a disaster.  So we relied on the wisdom of a little book one member found at the bookstore.  A “Bible”, as it were, giving us the strength and motivation to pursue what we love.

Dream big. I dare you.

When I first read The Artist in the Office, I immediately felt ready to write my next book.  This book is like bubblegum for artists, filled with positive quotes and writing suggestions, humorous drawings and motivational stories.

In the introduction, the writer says, “This little book isn’t about not working, it’s about acknowledging the work we do.  It’s about waking up in the life we inhabit now instead of putting off life for later.”  Many people, including myself, find it hard to separate work from play…especially when work and play are the same thing.  For example, I love to read and write.  I always have and always will.  However, I’m an editor for a living…so I’m reading and writing all the time.  So how do I find time to do what I love when doing what I love is really the last thing I want to do because it reminds me of work?  Make sense?

That’s what this book is about.  How to make time for you.  How to make time to embrace your passions without sacrificing your job or your sanity.  It is possible.

The Artist in the Office doesn’t read like a book, it reads more like a journal.  Included along the way are various activities to help you determine how to set goals, what to look for when you’re job searching, and how to make your current job work for you.  What is your ideal life?  What’s preventing you from being happy?  If you could have the perfect job, what would it be?  Figuring out how you feel about these questions and other ones can help you lead the life you’ve always wanted.  There’s always time to start fresh.

This book also gives some good advice on how to turn your current job from blah to hurrah!  One suggestion was to change your commute.  Walk part of the way to work and learn to embrace and listen to the world around you.  Be a secret messenger once a month by leaving uplifting messages in random places around the office (inside the bathroom, in cabinets, in the middle of a notebook, etc.).  Finally, we all know what it’s like to live in Cube-ville.  Florescent lights, staplers, keyboards clacking away…brighten up your cube by hanging up a fake window with the scene of your choice.  Take 5 minutes a day to just meditate and stare out of your window.  Chances are you’ll be more productive, more relaxed, and in a much better mood.

Perhaps the best part of this book is the section about finding time to do what you love to do.  Included in the book is a quote by Andy Warhol:  “Don’t think about making art, just get it done.  Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it.  While they’re deciding, make even more art.”  This is our motto at our Artist Collective.  We must always be creating.  If you need help making time for yourself, or discovering what your passion is, or separating work from play, or even if you need help enjoying your current job, this book is for you.

I would like to close with one of my favorite quotes from the book.  When I read it, I wrote it down and hung it up in my cube:  “A special note to all administrative, executive, and personal assistants:  Your job is to help someone else live their dream.  How about lending some of that energy and skill to your dream.  YOU ARE QUALIFIED.”

SUGGESTION:  Read it.  Seriously.  Even if you have no interest in starting an Artist Collective, it will motivate you to continue with whatever your passion may be.  You can read it in under an hour and there are pictures, for those who are so inclined.

NEXT WEEK (for real this time): Coming up next week is a story about mothers and daughters, the strength of family, and the intricate rhythms and beats that keep us all moving forward.  Stock up on the tissues…

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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