One of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2019
A journey through the many ways to live an artistic life—from the flashy and famous to the quiet and steady—full of unexpected insights about creativity and contentment, from the author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost.
Rachel Friedman was a serious violist as a kid. She quit music in college but never stopped fantasizing about what her life might be like if she had never put down her bow. Years later, a freelance writer in New York, she again finds herself struggling with her fantasy of an artist’s life versus its much more complicated reality. In search of answers, she decides to track down her childhood friends from Interlochen, a prestigious arts camp she attended, full of aspiring actors, artists, dancers, and musicians, to find out how their early creative ambitions have translated into adult careers, relationships, and identities.
Rachel’s conversations with these men and women spark nuanced revelations about creativity and being an artist: that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, that success isn’t always linear, that sometimes it’s okay to quit. And Then We Grew Up is for anyone who has given up a childhood dream and wondered “what-if?”, for those who have aspired to do what they love and had doubts along the way, and for all whose careers fall somewhere between emerging and established. Warm, whip-smart, and insightful, it offers inspiration for finding creative fulfillment wherever we end up in life.
Friedman (The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost) ponders the creative impulse in this insightful work. Starting at eight years old, Friedman attended summer camp at Interlochen Center for the Arts, a prestigious Michigan camp and school for young artists of all kinds, and was certain she'd have a career as a professional violist. But after a miserable year as a college music major, she decided to chart a new course. More than a decade later, a divorce and career anxieties as a freelance writer caused Friedman to wonder what her life would look like if she'd stuck with the viola. To dig deeper into concepts of potential, ambition, and art generally, Friedman reconnects with old friends from Interlochen. Including profiles of artists and former art students such as Jenna, who channeled her skills as a violinist into teaching music, and Dalia, who struggles to fit drawing and other artistic pursuits around her office job, Friedman ably illustrates many forms creativity can take. Friedman argues that there is both a "productivity-infused creativity" as well as creativity concerned with making everyday choices, such as choosing what one wears, eats, and reads. Anyone who's ever looked back longingly at an old passion and wondered what might have been will find an empathetic friend in Friedman. Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated the book's title.