Pick Me Up: Adam J. Kurtz

ADC Member releases his second book, Pick Me Up: A Pep Talk For Now And Later

Need a pick me up? We all do from time to time. This sort is sans caffeine or a fancy barista. Pick Me Up: A Pep Talk For Now And Later is the new interactive journal from designer, artist and two-time author, Adam J. Kurtz. It’s ‘something to cheer you up, a self-aware cry for attention’. How to use it? Open it at random, any page will do. As you flip through the authors’ own brilliant illustrations, hand-written messages and typographic thoughts, the idea is for you, dear reader, to connect with yourself and “chill the F out” by answering (honestly) the exercise outlined on the pages. Feel what you are feeling, the good, the bad and the in between and write it down. It’s self-helpish but not annoying. On the come-up of his October 4th book launch at Strand Bookstore, read our Q&A with this humorous, wonderful and talented ADC Member and find out where to pick up a copy of this must-have book for all kinds of types, creative and non.



Adam J. Kurtz
Brooklyn, NY
Designer, artist and author





We love a good book. You’re now the author of two! Tell us about your latest work, Pick Me Up. 


Both 1 Page at a Time and Pick Me Up are interactive journals, which prompt drawing, writing and list-making in my own little cautiously optimistic way. The humor is pretty much how I navigate the world, finding the balance between life being kind of overwhelming sometimes, staying motivated and laughing at all the amazing little things that happen along the way. Pick Me Up comes closer to a written book though, with a full fourth of the pages being longer-form handwritten messages, thoughts and inspiration. Another 25% of pages are tactile actions that range from ridiculous to meditative.


Personally, how important is the act of journaling as a creative professional? 


Let’s face it, we all work on the internet. Many of us sketch for work but are we really drawing or writing for pleasure? Journals are an important way to slow down and connect to something real, ultimately pen and paper is the foundation of all our creative careers. A guided journal is a nice way to push yourself when you’re getting started. Mine, and Pick Me Up in particular, are not your average guided journals. They’re friendly but not patronizing, they have self-help elements but they’re not “mindfulness” journals.


Why did you design it for the user to flip to a random page, as opposed to having us flip one by one?


My first book was a daily inspiration journal meant to take people on a 1-year journey, proving ultimately that you can make it through anything. For this next book, I wanted to remind people that while we do move forward in life, it’s not necessarily point A to point B. Life twists and turns and can surprise (or scare) the hell out of you. The randomness of the book, the pages that you fill out very slowly each time you land on them, that is meant as a metaphor for how we actually learn and experience in life. After a few mistakes we learn how to proceed and then it’s on to the next one.


I’ve always loved writing down thoughts in a book. It’s more visceral than say, tweeting a thought out to the universe.  


Tweeting feels good as an instant release but then it’s done. Writing thoughts gives you an arsenal of ideas (that maybe you didn’t realize were “ideas”) to come back to later. You never know when a shitty day will inspire a great creative project. I mean, that’s like a decent chunk of my personal work and it’s turned out pretty well for me so far.


Alongside my own good advice that I will come to write down in these pages, there is your own! in beautiful illustrations and type. What is the best piece of advice, if you had to choose? 


There really is no “best” or “expert” advice that works for every single person. So much of our problems and our solutions are based on timing. We need the right thing from the right person at the exact right moment when we are most open and receptive. Which is fucking hard. Instead, I hope the book as a whole will contain some really great kernels and hopefully you’ll land on the exact page you need when you need it.


You never know when a shitty day will inspire a great creative project.


So much of our lives feel like they are being lived at 100mph. Do you think using this book will help us to pause, appreciate “the little things?” And what is the importance of that?


This is definitely that “take a few minutes and chill the fuck out” book. I am one of those people who is always doing too many things at once. I am one of those people that sometimes confuses being busy for being happy. This book acknowledges both the validity of honest emotion and also that being “on” all the time isn’t sustainable.


I think it’s cool that you included the feelings we don’t like to face, like feeling anxious or lost. 


Being happy all the time is fucking boring. Nobody is happy all the time and people pretending they are exhaust me. There needs to be a balance, happiness doesn’t exist without sadness, success doesn’t feel as good if you’ve never failed at anything and if life is always perfect then how will you ever learn anything or relate to anyone? All feelings are valid.


What kind of writing tool do you recommend for filling these pages? (you can nerd out here on favorite pens, markers, crayola crayon color) 


The book is entirely written in my own shitty $1 pencils. This is totally not the kind of book where you need to feel pressure to buy a beautiful set of felt tip archival markers. But it might be! I suggest using whatever feels right to you or whatever is nearby when you have a minute.


Where can we pick up Pick Me Up? We’d recommend several copies. One for the bedside, one of the coffee table, one for the bathroom. Good thoughts are born in the shower! 


Luckily Penguin handles all the distribution stuff (as a self-publishing control freak this has been something to adjust to) so you can find it in most major bookstores and online retailers. If you have a favorite independent bookstore that you like to support that doesn’t have it, they can definitely order it for you once it’s release. Or just get it on that website… you know that big one… that sells a lot of books and also other things.


What’s next for you? 


The holidays are always a busy time for me! On October 4th, I’ll celebrate the book’s launch at Strand Bookstore with Grace Bonney (Design*Sponge) and a set by comedian Aparna Nancherla. Two weeks later there’s a Los Angeles release party at illustrator Tuesday Bassen’s new retail space. Then in November, I’ll launch a Kickstarter for the 2017 edition of Unsolicited Advice, my annual self-published weekly planner and Fishs Eddy will release a dishware line we’ve created together. Hopefully I will take a very long nap somewhere around December 24th.


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