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An Absorbing Errand

How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery

List Price: $15.95

August 13, 2013 | Paperback | 5.7 x 8.3, 272 Pages | ISBN 9781619021860
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“…an elegantly conceived book… Smith writes about fear, shame, creative solitude, and something she calls artistic ruthlessness. She does so beautifully, integrating with seeming effortlessness references to the words of others.” —Psychology Today

An Absorbing Errand uses stories of artists’ lives, personal anecdotes, and insights from the author’s work as a psychotherapist to examine the psychological obstacles that prevent people from staying with, and relishing, the process of art-making. Each chapter is devoted to a problem intrinsic to the creative process and illustrates how these very obstacles, once understood, can become prime sources of the energy that actually fuels the mastery of art-making.

Ultimately, An Absorbing Errand provides a philosophical, historical, and analytical look at the creative impulse and how certain artists from a wide field mastered their craft. From Julia Child to Charlie Chaplin, Lady Gaga to Michael Jackson, famous painters to established writers, Smith shows us how each overcame the obstacles they faced in the pursuit of their creative visions.

Many people carry within their hearts an aching sense that they have something they want to express through art; or that they will not feel complete until they’ve brought out some hidden part of themselves. Yet they cannot begin to do the work of bringing their creative idea into the world. Or, maybe they’ve begun over and over, but they can’t stay with their labor long enough to finish it. An Absorbing Errand is a supportive companion, an enlightened and compassionate ballast, a guide for anyone who has ever picked up a pencil to write, or a paint brush to paint, or any tool —from chisel to loom— to pursue any serious craft, and then put it down again frustrated, discouraged, and unable to continue.

An Absorbing Errand is unlike any book about creating art of any kind, and aspiring and working artists alike will find it both original and invaluable.

JANNA MALAMUD SMITH is the author of three books, My Father is a Book: A Memoir of Bernard Malamud, A Potent Spell: Mother Love and The Power of Fear; and Private Matters: In Defense of the Personal Life. Her titles have been New York Times Notable Books and A Potent Spell was a Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” pick. She has written for the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and The Threepenny Review, among other publications. A practicing psychotherapist, she lives with her husband and two children in Massachusetts.

Praise

“…an elegantly conceived book… Smith writes about fear, shame, creative solitude, and something she calls artistic ruthlessness. She does so beautifully, integrating with seeming effortlessness references to the words of others.” —Psychology Today

“Writer and psychotherapist Janna Malamud Smith has found her calling… An Absorbing Errand: How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery offers a comprehensive, insightful, and articulate guide for everyone who has ever attempted to make art… in depicting the numberless ways artists must become apprentices over and over, An Absorbing Errand proves itself a worthy inspiration for us all.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“’One pleasure of art making is its resolute inefficiency.’ This is an insight in a book bursting with insights, and recognizing its truth may help writers stop regretting the hours that a single sentence requires. Making art often requires ruthlessness, too; and the remembrance of and reenactment of shame (the chapter on Charlie Chaplin is one of the best in the book); and the avoiding of friends and even family. Janna Smith both warns and reassures us as she explores these difficult truths with compassion and wit.” —Edith Pearlman, author of Honeydew

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