Review: The Artist’s Journey (Kent Nerburn)

What would you say if you received a letter from a young artist, asking if it was possible to make a life in your art?

Most people, of course, will realistically say the odds are long – a truth. Some people would go further and say it’s a waste of time – an untruth..

I have a lot of thoughts about pursuing art in the course of a life, regardless of whether it is full time or squeezed in between other life duties. Many of those thoughts are echoed in this book, which I’d say is geared more toward younger people just beginning their trek on the artist’s path, whether that art is writing, painting, designing, dancing, or any other other ways they might express themselves. It’s easy to get into the negatives – most artists don’t make enough money to survive solely on their art, it may take years or decades to make a name, rejection is practically a given, and so on – and these, while necessary truths, need not be the only lens through which one views their art.

Nerburn incorporates these truths in this bookish response to the young artist, but weaves them into a larger framework of making good art, as Neil Gaiman would say. The question is not whether one may make a living in their selected art, but whether the continued practice and pursuit of an art is worthwhile in the life one is currently living.

Spoiler: it absolutely is.

There are many books and blog posts and videos that say this, but I found Nerburn’s version to be well written, quite thoughtful, and a good read, regardless of the age of the reader pursuing their art and if they are a neophyte or grizzled veteran.

A solid four out of five stars.

Thanks to Canongate and NetGalley for the review copy.

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