Success in the Arts: What it Takes to Make it in Creative Fields
By A. Michael Shumate
Elfstone Press, 2007
128 pages, $10.95
Order this book
at a great price
from Amazon now
Review by Patricia Fry
Now here's the book that many creative types have been waiting for as it teaches how to turn your love of writing, music, dance, art or performance into a paycheck. These are some of the questions graphic designer/illustrator Michael Shumate addresses in this book:
- What do you need besides talent?
- What is real creativity and how do you cultivate it?
- How do you get through tough times?
- How do you deal with criticism?
- How do you "get breaks" in your field?
- How do you keep from "selling your soul?"
The information and ideas in Shumate's book are presented from a personal point of view. He considers himself a mentor to his readers, and a fitting mentor he is. Shumate is a professor of graphic design and illustration at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario. He has been a graphic designer and commercial illustrator for more than 35 years, and has found ways throughout his life to earn money through his craft. Some of his more prestigious jobs include Web and print design and advertising work for the likes of British Airways Magazine, Macmillan McGraw-Hill Publishers and Business Week.
The author has an interesting and organized way of presenting important material. The first section of the book is autobiographical. The concepts and principles he introduces in the first six chapters are discussed in detail throughout the remainder of the book. It's interesting how this author has combined a strong mentoring/teaching element with an interesting and inspiring memoir.
Section 2 identifies and explores the concept of talent -- what is it, do you have it, how do you acquire it? Section 3 deals with expanding on -- and exploiting -- your talent. Shumate says, "There are three qualities necessary for success in the arts. Talent, love of the work and a cleverness about what you can't handle head-on." He says that the last quality is called "smarts." He uses the game of football as an example of how to run around -- or work around -- hurdles. In other words, be resourceful. If something isn't working for you, find another avenue. If you are lacking something, expand on or focus upon what you do have. Shumate uses some great examples to illustrate this point. He says that Elvis Presley admits that he didn't know anything about music, but he said, "In my line of work, I don't have to."
If you feel that you have talent or skill deficits, but you want to pursue a career in a particular field, Shumate helps you find the way around some of those hurdles.
Throughout the pages of this interesting, easy-to-read book, the author makes an abundance of excellent, thought-provoking points. I especially like the great examples Shumate uses to illustrate many concepts. If you can get through this book without being motivated to establish a career or to move your career forward, you simply aren't paying attention. While this book is inspiring, it is not sugarcoated. Shumate clearly states that, in order to succeed, you must put forth the effort. But he doesn't leave you to your own devices. He takes you by the hand and leads you toward your success.
Those who read my book reviews know how adamant I am about the need for an index in a nonfiction book. I'm happy to report that this book has an index, but it is not a traditional index. Shumate has included terms and words that you don't normally see in an index. I'm sure, however, that this is a useful index to those who have read this book and want to refer back to a topic or a point. However, it's odd that he includes words such as "luck, immaturity, talent, abilities" and phrases such as, "life is more than just art," "looking out for #1," "influence, homage and plagiarism." Also, some of the index entries seem to be in the wrong place. How do "acquired mastery," "inborn abilities," and "public speaking" fit under the letter T? Maybe these are simply indexer's or proofreader's mistakes.
All in all, I like this book and believe that it is unique enough, yet grounded enough to be extremely useful for creative types who want to expand their lives through their art or craft. I give this book five stars. Recommended reading!
–Patricia Fry is a full-time freelance writer and the author of 25 books. Read her latest book, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book, http://www.matilijapress.com/rightway.html. Visit her writing/publishing blog often at http://www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog.