I am delighted to present Episode 53 of the SneakyArt Podcast - a conversation with Portland-based bestselling author and artist, Amy Stewart.
Also, this is the last chance to get into this Sunday’s Zoom hangout. During the session, I will be showing recent sketchbooks, answering questions, and demoing my drawing style with the fountain pen. SneakyArt Insiders, visit here to claim your free seat!
In the audio section, an apt excerpt from the episode. (Say apt excerpt again.)
Ep 53 - Getting Things Done with Amy Stewart
Best-selling author Amy Stewart (”Flower Confidential”, “Drunken Botanist”, “Girl Waits with Gun”) talks about her “disinclination to pick a lane”, the ideas that have helped her navigate a successful writing career, and the role of art in her creative practice.
This conversation addresses several dichotomies of the creative life - instant vs delayed gratification, processes vs results, art vs writing, and sticking to a lane vs sticking to one’s convictions. It is about understanding how Amy gets so many things done.
It is a conversation about many things and then some more - cocktails, 19th century feminism, gardening, poisons, the global flower industry, and people who collect trees. It is an episode about “one and a half things.”
🔍 Last week I completed Book 1 of the Kopp Sisters stories - Girl Waits with Gun. I highly recommend it!
Listen to this episode on your choice of streaming service, or pick one below:
The Ship of Theseus Problem
Becoming a writer before you could Google it
[16min] “A good column is about one and a half things.” - John Carroll
How did gardening become a part of Amy’s life?
The larger theme of overplanning vs not-planning but getting things done.
“It’s a tough journey, and it does not get easier.” - Amy, on how writing her new book seemed impossible even with the experience of 13 books behind her.
How your hobbies need hobbies
[32min] How does a person collect trees? Amy talks about Book #14
The history of tree-moving, and the Hearst Castle in southern California.
Ethics and safeguards around tree collecting and bio-prospecting
Drunken Botanist, how books are classified on the bookshelves of stores, and its impact on sales.
Differences between art and writing
[60min] How Amy came to write her first bestseller - Flower Confidential.
How flowers happen.
How cocktails happened.
Creating a niche for herself.
How does Amy manage so many projects?
“There is no good way to measure progress in a creative life.” - Nishant.
[2h 25min] How does Amy grapple with the word ‘productivity’?
Cal Newport, The Productivity Funnel
Cal Newport, On Pace & Productivity
Elizabeth Gilbert, Signature of All Things
[2h 32min] “My mid-life crisis book.” - Amy Stewart, on writing Girl Waits with Gun
Instant v delayed gratification, writing v art, urban sketching v working at her desk
“Yes, I would advise any writer to go find something that gives them instant gratification, whether it's art or cooking or just something where the reward is right then.” - Amy, on how to cope with the long game.
Why do writers hate writing but artists love to make art? Amy cites Daniel Kahnemann’s Thinking Fast and Slow
Some good reasons to keep multiple sketchbooks
“We are so heavy on text and writing and words, but really our sense of things that are non-verbal is much stronger.” - Nishant, on human instinct around non-verbal communication.
The Substack question.
“Your email coming to their inbox is like a private equation you share with [readers].” - Nishant, on the value of an email.
At the end of the episode, I asked Amy for book recommendations:
Sue Hubbel, A Book of Bees
Joy Williams, The Florida Keys
Geoff Dyer, Out of Sheer Rage
David Foster Wallace, A supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again
Have you read any of them? Would you recommend any others that relate to the subjects discussed in this episode?
This summer, I shared the conversational cheat sheets I prepare the night before a recording. Here is the page for this conversation!
The theme for this episode was Amy’s natural disinclination to pick a lane - a phrase she used on her blog. Using the above flowchart, imagine our conversation as a planet revolving around this star, served by its moons, and visited by far-flung asteroids streaking across the starry sky, disappearing and reappearing.
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Listeners, I would love to hear your thoughts about this episode. Let’s talk in the discussion thread!