How to Read Like an Artist

by Karl Rohde — Get free updates of new posts here. Photo Credit: Karl Rohde

In every interview I conduct I ask this question: What book are you reading or have you recently read?

It's with good reason. With the pressure of the Social Age bearing down on us keeping sharp and savvy is a fundamental expectation for any knowledge worker. In today's modern workforce creativity and innovation is paramount to preserving one's value proposition. It naturally follows that I emphasize the mentality of the artist. Why?

To be an artist you must create. To support this capability a source of inspiration, mindfulness and perspective is a necessity. Reading is perhaps the best way I know to do this and to consistently facilitate the creative process, keep your mind beautiful and prepared to do your best work.

"The book you don’t read won’t help." --Jim Rohn, America’s Foremost Business Philosopher

Reading is my primary form of professional development. In line with the "7 Habits of Hightly Effective People" it’s how I sharpen my saw. I don’t just read the text! I have a brief process to super charge my reading so that its on-purpose and adds to my perspective, knowledge and ultimately my work; my art. The insights of my reading should be impressed on my brain for application in my work at a moments notice.

The Artists Guide to Reading

  1. Non-fiction makes up the bulk of your reading. Reading fiction is mostly entertainment.
  2. Reading is ongoing; it never stops - You need to keep the soil of your mind moist with regular watering (reading). I’m never wondering what I’ll read next. I keep a list of books to read in Workflowy.
  3. Read with a pen and a highlighter at the ready. Write notes and highlight salient points.
  4. Get an Amazon Kindle or some other e-Ink ebook reader (the Kindle app will also do, but e-Ink is the Dom Pérignon for long form digital reading). This has transformed reading - period! The native highlighting and notes features makes it a snap to extract the key points into the MY CLIPPINGS file on the Kindle. If you bought content from Amazon your highlights and notes are stored online at your kindle.amazon.com page. I am in the habit of sending all my digital book clippings into Evernote where I can index and search the content at will - which is super handy for talks and other research.
  5. Prepare you mind before reading. Think about what you want to get out of the book. Flick through the book to get a gist of what you are about to read. Review the table of contents. Read the back cover (not available on the kindle).
  6. Read the darn book! Don’t drag it out; get it read!
  7. Make sure you review your notes a few days later. Either your hand written and highlights in the printed book or your Kindle digital notes.
  8. Review your notes a few weeks later.
  9. Share with others the great insights you’ve gleaned. Dinner parties will never be the same. ;-)

If you want a great list of books to read along with a monthly recommendation email check out Ryan Holiday's List.

If you want a manifesto of sorts on being more purposeful about reading check out Austin Kleon's thoughts on reading.


Thanks for reading another WorkLikeAnArtist.com article.

Question: Whats your perspective on reading? Leave a comment in the box below. If you liked this post please share on your social networks, email to a few friends or reply to this to email me. Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and LinkedIn