Your Art Sucks: Read More Books.

Art is something which challenges your current beliefs, ideas, and system of living.

Six months ago I defined art as something you could hang on a wall. My definition expanded when I started reading. I have always read. However, I have never been a book reader. I would often start books and never finish them.


At the beginning of 2015 I signed up for the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I selected 12 books. ‘A book a month?’, I thought, I can do that. Then, I forgot to start. I came across Goodreads again in July. The page reminded me I was behind the goal I had set for myself.

I then created a ritual (or process) of reading every day. My process looks like this:

  • When I first wake up I get a cup of coffee and start reading the book that sits on the end table next to my couch. I sit there until I finish the first cup. I then refill my cup, go to the bathroom, get a second cup of coffee, and then continue reading. When my second cup of coffee is empty, I head to work. The reading time here is from 20 to 40 minutes.
  • I have another book (crazy I know) I read during lunch. This book is an electronic book which I read on my Kindle Paperwhite. and is a heavier read than my morning book. The book is usually non-fiction. The reading time of this period varies from 15 minutes to an hour.
  • Upon getting ready for bed, I lay in bed and read on my Kindle some more. This is yet another book. I only read light-fiction during this period because I catch myself falling asleep and I want to be able to forget pieces of the text. Reading time: 15 to 30 minutes.

Utilizing this strategy I was able to read 23 books in 2015. It wasn’t hard and it sounds like a lot, but it’s not.

For 2016, I decided to challenge myself to read 26 books. It is the middle of February and I’ve already read nine books.


My definition of art changed once I began to read more. The Oxford English Dictionary defines art as:

The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

The problem with this definition is the phrase, “typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture.”

Painters produce art. Sculptors produce art. But, art isn’t limited to these creators. Art encompasses many things. I would argue musicians are artists. Even if you hate what they produce. Especially if you hate what they produce.

My current definition of art is something which challenges your current beliefs, ideas, or system of living. The O.E.D. got the “emotional power” part of the definition correct.

This is a more inclusive definition and one which I think is appropriate. Painters and Sculptors aren’t the only artists. Musicians are artists. Writers are artists. Software developers are artists. Designers are artists. Cooks are artists. Artists are creators. If you create, you are an artist.

However. The term artist is a reserved word. A word which only an exclusive set of people can call themselves. Right? I don’t think so. As long as what you create has an emotional impact on people, by my definition, you are an artist.

Everyone Enjoys Art

Even if you don’t think you like art. I’m telling you, you do. Appreciating art is what makes us human. Even hardcore scientists enjoy art. Because the physical world challenges the way you think. Isaac Newton loved art. Isaac Newton, scientist, was an artist. “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica” challenged the way scientists of Newton’s time thought.

Reading is the most important thing you can do for yourself. It changes the way you think about the world. Physicians are now prescribing books to the depressed. As William Nicholson made C.S. Lewis say in Shadowlands, “We read to know we are not alone.”

Kayne West

My wife and I have an ongoing debate whether Kanye West is naive or if he just plays one on television. I don’t think anyone would disagree that Kanye West is an artist. My personal belief is his entire life is an art experiment. Taking Andy Warhol to the next level.

In 2009, While promoting his 52-page book “Thank You And You’re Welcome” said:

“Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed. I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book’s autograph. I am a proud non-reader of books. I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life.”

West’s own mother was an English professor and Kanye loved his Mama. It seems hard to believe his quote is something he believes rather than a way to get press. However, assume this is something West believes.

Why would he cut himself off from a form of art? What if he took the same stance on music? Let’s alter his quote a bit.

Sometimes people make music and they just rhyme and are so self-absorbed. I am not a fan of music. I would never want a song’s autograph. I am a proud non-listener of music. I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life.

What if we took it a step further and just changed it from one form of art to all art.

Sometimes people create things and they just be so arty and are so self-absorbed. I am not a fan of art. I would never want art’s autograph. I am a proud non-creator of art. I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life.

Would Kanye think this is an accurate statement? I’ve listened to West on the Bret Easton Ellis (One of those self-absorbed wordy writers) podcast. The show allowed me to hear Kanye West. A conversation between a few people and Kayne doesn’t think before he speaks. He wants to be on the bleeding edge of art and thought. Looking at his quote with this lens is interesting. His problem with books is that the artists put time, energy, thought, and passion into them.

Kayne West doesn’t want to do that. He wants to speak the first thought he has. He doesn’t want to critically think about his ideas. To him, art is visceral not intellectual. The first thing you feel is art. Everything after that initial feeling is intellect getting in the way.

I define an artist as someone who challenges your way of thinking.

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