Chad Allen's brief manifesto gets to the heart of two questions: What is your art? And how will you make it part of your life?

Chad Allen’s brief manifesto gets to the heart of two questions: What is your art? And how will you make it part of your life? (chadrallen.com)

My husband loves to build things, fix things, solve problems . . . . He was born to be an engineer. Even after his regular work hours, he always has some scheme or other going for home improvement, and is never happier than when he’s in the muck of creating something cool.

I’m thinking of this right now because I’m in the “muck” of the final revisions for a book. I am reminded that, in writing as well as in home improvement, things always look worse before they look better. I’m also thinking that such creative outlets are as necessary as oxygen. So I continue to work to make my forthcoming book better.

I recently read Chad Allen’s excellent short book Do Your Art: A Manifesto on Rejecting Apathy to Bring Your Best to the World (which, BTW, is just 99 cents for the Kindle version and $3.99 for a pamphlet-like paperback). If you’re an accountant whose passion is painting, or an editor whose passion is writing, or even a teacher whose passion is teaching (go figure!), this book is a jump-start on the creative process. Allen says that so many people dream big dreams but have no idea how to make those dreams part of their daily lives, step by baby step. So he helps readers identify their particular creative zeal and then follow that path, deal with setbacks, establish goals, and generally turn their imagined ideals into something concrete.

For inspiration I have been working on my book in the living room just so I can see my husband’s latest project. I was there for all the steps, and helped with some of them (I am a whiz-bang painter); but this was Phil’s baby from start to finish. Here’s how it went:

He started with a vision that he could expand the width of the framing to accommodate a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf. The trickiest part, the thing he had never attempted before, was that this required demolishing this 1920s crown molding at the end of the room.

He started with a vision that he could expand the depth of the framing to accommodate a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf. The trickiest part, the thing he had never attempted before, was that this required demolishing the 1920s crown molding at that end of the room. I was a bit apprehensive . . . . (Author photo)

Building the shelves was pretty straightforward (well, at least for him). But as you can see, the early stage of replacing the crown molding looked just terrible. He had to plaster in the structure before doing any fine-tuning.

As you can see, the early stage of replacing the crown molding looked just terrible. He had to plaster in the structure before doing any fine-tuning. (Author photo)

 

But look how the molding turned out! To do this, he had to exactly replicate the existing molding from the other walls on a sort of cardboard template that he used as a tool to mold the new material. I think that it looks like it is original to the house.

But look how the molding turned out! To achieve this, he had to exactly replicate the existing molding from the other walls on a sort of cardboard template that he used as a tool to mold the new material. I think that the new molding looks like it is original to the house. (Author photo)

And this is how it looks now, almost entirely populated with books.

And this is how it looks now, almost entirely populated with books. Soon we will be needing more shelves . . . . (Author photo)

And there it is, from start to finish. It took about eight weeks of work, sporadically. But he’s not done making things. Now he is talking about a built-in entertainment center for a flat-screen TV. (It is dawning on me that this is how guys guarantee they get a certain size of TV.)

What’s your creative passion? And how might you take a step this weekend toward living it out?

3 Comments

  1. Jana,

    Thanks so much for the recommendation and for inspiring me with this story of your husband’s project. That’s a beautiful built-in bookcase!

    And I pray you have as much success as you work on your book. If past is prologue, I can’t wait.

    Sincerely,
    Chad

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