An Absorbing Errand (Hardcover)

How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery

By Janna Malamud Smith

Counterpoint LLC, 9781619020047, 240pp.

Publication Date: August 28, 2012

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (8/6/2013)

List Price: 25.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


An Absorbing Errand uses stories of artists' lives, personal anecdotes, and insights from the author's work as a psychotherapist to examine the psychological obstacles that prevent people from staying with, and relishing, the process of art-making. Each chapter is devoted to a problem intrinsic to the creative process and illustrates how these very obstacles, once understood, can become prime sources of the energy that actually fuels the mastery of art-making.

Many people carry within their hearts an aching sense that they have something they want to express through art; or that they will not feel complete until they've brought out some hidden part of themselves. Yet they cannot begin to do the work of bringing their creative idea into the world. Or, maybe they've begun over and over, but they can't stay with their labor long enough to finish it. Ultimately, An Absorbing Errand provides a philosophical, historical, and analytical look at the creative impulse and how certain artists from a wide field mastered their craft. From Julia Child to Charlie Chaplin, Lady Gaga to Michael Jackson, famous painters to established writers, Smith shows us how each overcame the obstacles they faced in the pursuit of their creative visions.

About the Author

Janna Malamud Smith is the author of three books, My Father is a Book: A Memoir of Bernard Malamud, A Potent Spell: Mother Love and The Power of Fear; and Private Matters: In Defense of the Personal Life. Her titles have been New York Times Notable Books and A Potent Spell was a Barnes and Noble "Discover Great New Writers" pick. She has written for the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Threepenny Review, among other publications. A practicing psychotherapist, she lives with her husband and two children in Massachusetts.

Praise For An Absorbing Errand: How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery

Praise for An Absorbing Errand

an elegantly conceived bookSmith writes about fear, shame, creative solitude, and something she calls artistic ruthlessness. She does so beautifully, integrating with seeming effortlessness references to the words of others.” Psychology Today

Writer and psychotherapist Janna Malamud Smith has found her callingAn Absorbing Errand: How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery offers a comprehensive, insightful, and articulate guide for everyone who has ever attempted to make artin depicting the numberless ways artists must become apprentices over and over, An Absorbing Errand proves itself a worthy inspiration for us all.” San Francisco Chronicle

’One pleasure of art making is its resolute inefficiency.’ This is an insight in a book bursting with insights, and recognizing its truth may help writers stop regretting the hours that a single sentence requires. Making art often requires ruthlessness, too; and the remembrance of and reenactment of shame (the chapter on Charlie Chaplin is one of the best in the book); and the avoiding of friends and even family. Janna Smith both warns and reassures us as she explores these difficult truths with compassion and wit.” Edith Pearlman