Steal Like An Artist
You never know what you’ll find in a stack of fifty cent paperbacks at a Flea Market. One title that caught my eye was Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon. The author makes the case that nothing is more paralyzing than the idea of limitless possibilities. And unfortunately we live in an age of limitless everything.
I’m pretty sure Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, wasn’t thinking about buying The Washington Post and Whole Foods when he launched Amazon.com in 1994. He started by selling books online. He started with something, not everything.
I was drawn to Kleon’s provocative and intriguing title because I work with artists every day and personally like to frequent museums, galleries, historic homes and trendy retailers to absorb creative inspiration.
Kleon believes creativity is for everyone, no matter what your line of work or play. Once you’re attuned to it, there are thousands of random ideas floating out there waiting to be harnessed. Which influences we internalize and when we choose to call them up is where the magic begins.
That’s what Kleon means by “stealing.” Taking bits and pieces of creative influences and making them your own.
You are a mashup of anything you let into your life. Anyone can be creative if they surround themselves with the right influences, play nice and work hard.
And you don’t need to have endless resources at your disposal to get started opening that bakery, planting that garden or writing that song. Singer/songwriter Jack White said it best:
Telling yourself you have all the time
in the world, all the money in the world,
all the colors in the palette, anything
you want -- that just kills creativity.
As I was writing this, here was my horoscope for the day:
CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19). The tools used to be creative will be a focus, but don't be fooled: The tools do not create. Creativity is in the head and heart. Fancy, expensive tools can actually work against the art.
Better to have a few bucks and an opening line.
When it comes to any creative endeavor, Kleon concedes that “narrowing the options is one of the hardest things to do; self-editing is one of the most difficult forms of self-discipline.”
The way to get over creative block is to simply place some constraints on yourself. It seems contradictory, but when it comes to creative work, limitations mean freedom.
His book is a quick, fun read with great graphics, but if you’re a headline scanner, I’ll just go ahead and tell you the10 Things Nobody Told You (until now) About Being Creative:
1. Steal like an artist.
2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.
3. Write the book you want to read.
4. Use your hands.
5. Side projects and hobbies are important.
6. The secret: do good work and share it with people.
7. Geography is no longer our master.
8. Be nice (the world is a small town).
9. Be boring (it’s the only way to get work done).
10. Creativity is subtraction.
Definitely worth 50 cents.