Summer Pierre, The Artist in the Office (2010)

Uh-oh, it seems that I’ve had this draft for 2 months or more and didn’t quite publish it! It’s high time I put it out in the open because it’s a lovely book. Update: it didn’t quite solve my procrastination problem. Sigh…

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I heard of this book from the lovely Finding Time to Write blog, and I bought the book almost immediately (second-hand from Amazon marketplace), so intrigued I was about its promises: “how to creatively survive and thrive seven days a week”.

Although I am not comfortable with the name artist, and I don’t quite believe in the feel-good notion that everything we create is art, I am all ears when someone offers strategies and inspiration to make work and any creative outlet coexist peacefully, rather than pushing the art to the margins of our lives (work taking so much time and energy) or proposing to quit your job altogether. Here’s what she says about drastic measures:

“It took me years to realize that I could do all kinds of drastic acts like quitting jobs, relationships, towns (or all of the above), but what showed up at the next job, relationship, & town was still ME.”

This book seems primarily aimed at youngish and unattached people who take jobs in restaurants or offices while hoping or waiting for a big creative success that will allow them to practice full-time. But often this arrangement becomes permanent and people are frustrated with their humdrum, stifling day jobs.

Summer Pierre offers a kind voice and good ideas to find this balance, and although her ideas are often not really applicable to my own circumstances, I liked the optimism and attitude.

French people are professional grumblers, and it’s all too easy to complain about our day job. I do it a lot (less than my colleagues, but still pretty much every day). But she helped me realize that, yes, there are (also) good points about working this job (and I’m not talking money only).

Some pieces of advice felt very US-centered and hipster-ish. Jobs are very hard to come by in France, so people here can’t just chuck a job and find another.  French office environments – or at least mine – don’t seem like the places Summer Pierre talks about — if I try a dance move near the copy machine they’re going to call the doctor straight away.

But other parts of the book were quite precious to me, forcing me to realize that procrastination is not creation, and it’s not downtime either. Putting things off for later and waiting for circumstances to be ideal isn’t a good solution. You might think “duh” and move on, but it was actually fun.

It’s a pretty easy read, quite inspirational. I didn’t fall in love with Summer Pierre’s designs but I enjoyed her kind words. It was probably a bad timing for me to read it before the holidays, but I’ll try a re-read in September along with my good resolutions for the fall!(*)

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(*) Note from 2014/10/09: uh-oh… Although the book is lingering close to my computer in my little writing nook, I didn’t quite find the time to re-read it in September, as you can imagine.


5 thoughts on “Summer Pierre, The Artist in the Office (2010)

  1. Great to hear your thoughts about the book – yes, I too thought some of the advice did not apply in France or the rest of Europe! The author thanked me for the review via Twitter and I asked her if she still has time to create now that she has a child and she said she probably needs to write a whole new book about that!

  2. It sounds like one of those books that, while perhaps not exactly fitting your situation, still manages to offer some feeling that you are not alone in your struggles which is valuable in itself, I think.

    So French people like to complain? That explains a lot! I have a coworker who is French and she spends most of her day complaining about one thing or another. Sometimes it drives me nuts!

    • Complaining seems genetic to us, that’s why it’s so difficult to have any kind of change in this country! And that explains why American optimism seems so exotic and refreshing to me!

  3. we are all complaining in my work environment right now because: Ebola (I work for a hospital) – maybe pretending we are French would make us feel better about it. At any rate, this book seems to jive with my life philosophy – quit adding to my TBR pile, Smithereens!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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