BOOK REVIEW: Art & Soul Reloaded by Pam Grout

I believe in the power of books. And I especially believe that books have this wonderful power to find you when you need them most. They’ll be recommended by a friend, appear faceout in a store display or even serendipitously fall off a shelf in your path. All at the very moment when their message is most relevant to you. So it didn’t fully surprise me that a mere three days before I planned to start my yearlong creativity challenge, I stumbled on a book called Art & Soul Reloaded: A Yearlong Apprenticeship for Summoning the Muses and Reclaiming Your Bold, Audacious, Creative Side by Pam Grout. The fact that it had only been published a week earlier was a bit on the nose, but like I said, I believe in the power of books.

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I haven’t yet used the book the way it was intended: reading a chapter each week and doing the accompanying activity or “Zumba for the Soul”. I was honestly too excited to take it so slowly and it was so readable that I plowed through it in less than a week, absorbing the inspiration like a sponge and using it as a springboard for my own challenge. But if you’re looking for a gentle way to jumpstart your creativity, I highly recommend this book.

Art & Soul Reloaded is above all stress and pretension free. It’s not trying to turn you into a gallery-worthy artist in a year. If anything, author Pam Grout is trying to get you to loosen up about this whole art thing. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself and just make stuff. Be a little silly. No seriously, loosen up. And if you’re a stymied artist or someone who describes themselves as “not that creative”, it’s great advice.

That being said, the activities in this book may not seem like “art” to a lot of people. A personal invocation of the muses? Dancing around your living room? How is that art? Well, that’s kind of the point. It’s not about whether some grand authority deems your photo booth self portrait “real art”. What matters it that it got you to think differently, to do something without worrying what anyone else might think, and to express yourself. And if that’s not art in and of itself, it certainly seeds the creative ground for your particular brand of art to flourish.

Bottom Line: Art & Soul Reloaded offers a low-barrier way to dedicate more time to fostering creativity. The time commitment is minimal and the artistic skill required is whatever you were born with or acquired over the years. The warm and supportive tone is motivating without being syrupy and the sense of possibility it leaves you with is enormous: exactly what you need if you don’t know how to get out of a creative rut. See what I mean about the power of books?

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