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Steal Like an Artist


When Austin Kleon was asked to address college students in upstate New York, he shaped his speech around the ten things he wished someone had told him when he was starting out. After giving the speech, he posted the text and slides to his popular blog where it quickly went viral. In this title, he has expanded his original manifesto. The result is inspiring, hip, original, practical, and entertaining and filled with new truths about creativity.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative is a very interesting and inspiring book that presents ten principles that will help you change your ideas about creativity and will help you become more productive, creative, and passionate about what you do. The ten principles are:-

  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.

The book debunks the myths about originality and creativity and demonstrates with examples how nothing is original and why everything is influenced by the works of our predecessors. It explains how good theft is different from bad theft. Good theft involves honor, study, stealing from many, credit the sources, transform, and remix while bad theft involves degrade, skim, stealing from one, plagiarize, imitate, and rip-off. It helps the reader to overcome the fear and guilt of ‘stealing’ from others to create original work by copying, combining, transforming, and adding value to what you have taken. The book gives advice on what to copy, who to copy, and how to copy so that at the end of the process you end up creating your own work in your own distinctive style that is very different from the sources that inspired you.

The book gives a lot of practical and useful advice on how to improve yourself and your skills so that you become creative, productive and also a better person. It offers useful tips on how to educate yourself, how to collect and generate ideas, how to use the ideas, etc. Another valuable advice is for beginners on how to get started—you should start by imitating, copying, or practicing what you want to be. By copying, you learn how something was made—“Copying is reverse-engineering. It is like a mechanic taking apart a car to see how it works.

Always be reading. Go to the library. There is magic in being surrounded by books. Get lost in the stacks. Read bibliographies. It’s not the book you start with, it’s the book that books lead you to.
Collect books, even if you don’t plan on reading them right away. Filmmaker John Waters has said “nothing is more important than an unread library.”
Don’t worry about doing research. Just search.

Another advice is about making things happen. Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use—do the work you want to see done.

The author cautions about overuse and over-dependence on technology. Make things in the analog world. Too much technology can often be a hindrance to creativity. Strike a balance between the analog and digital worlds. Use technology where it is best, but avoid technology when it is not necessary.

Your hobbies are the things that will keep you from burnout and depression. A hobby is something that you do for your happiness. It is fun and there is no pressure while doing it. A hobby can help you to relax and recharge.

You should always do good work and share it with others. How much you want to share is your decision. The Internet has made the sharing easy. Share your knowledge and ideas with others and people will help you by sharing their ideas and knowledge. You can get many creative ideas from others if you are a person who shares knowledge with them.

Internet and mobile devices have given the power to reach anyone anywhere in the world. But this always on connection can sometime become a distraction. Once in a while disconnect yourself from the world and enjoy the solitude and privacy. A lot of creative work could be done during those solitary periods.

Don’t waste time on fights or other such negative activities. It takes a lot of energy to be creative. Don’t do things that are not necessary. Spend time on creative and productive work. Surround yourself with positive and creative people. Learn from them. Try to help others as best as you can. What you give, you will get back. Praise or appreciate without expecting anything in return.

Two things you need to become organized are a calendar and a log book. The calendar is for planning and the log book is for recording what you have done and other ideas that come to you.

Constraints often improve creativity. Constrains can be time or resources—write a poem in one hour, paint with only one color, etc. Don’t make excuses for not working—make things with the time, space, and materials you have right now. “In the end, creativity isn’t just the things we choose to put in; it’s the things we choose to leave out… Choose wisely. And have fun…

You don’t need to be a genius; you just need to be yourself. That’s the message from Austin Kleon, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere, creativity is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, Steal Like an Artist is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side. A MUST READ!

Book Details:

  • Author: Austin Kleon
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing Company
  • Year: 2012
  • ISBN: 9780761169253
  • Cover & Page Count: Paperback, 160 pages