Over my long vacation, I had the pleasure of reading 11 books, 7 of them nonfiction, and most all of them of interest to authors and thought leaders. My next several posts will provide reviews of the best of these books.
There is nothing new under the sun, states Ecclesiastes. And Austin Kleon seconds that motion is his excellent book (and New York Times bestseller), Steal Like an Artist.
Since we all are the products of our experiences, the people we’ve met, the choices that we’ve made, we are wasting time trying to be “original” states Kleon. We need to steal like an artist.
So how does an artist steal? Kleon provides benchmarks, among them the notion that artists don’t steal from just one person or idea. Artists study many other artists. They don’t plagiarize or imitate, but rather credit and then transform. Artists remix ideas and never rip them off.
He also offers suggestions to spark our creativity:
School yourself. Be a student of the world. Be curious. Google everything. Read. Collect books. “Don’t worry about doing research, just search” he says.
Use both analog and digital tools. Kleon suggests having two desks: one is for digital tools, one is for analog tools. Most of us already have a digitally-focused desk, so suggests we make a trip to the office supply store and buy post-its, colored pens and markers, note books, and stick pins. Supplement these with articles you’ve clipped and ideas you’ve jotted down. Work on one desk, then another.
Find the most talented person in the room and stand by that person. If you’re the most talented person, it’s time to find another room. To be creative we need to hang out with people who spark that creativity.
Keep a praise file! When someone sends you a thank you note or letter of praise, keep these together in a file to inspire and motivate you when you’re down.
Write fan letters. Acknowledge the work of other artists you appreciate. Who knows, you might even be able to rub elbows with them and learn directly from your heroes.
Inertia is the death of creativity, so keep moving. If you are a writer, write. If you are an artist, paint. Use your skills.
Figure out what time you can steal, and stick to your routine. Do the work every day, no matter what. Nobody says it’s going to be fun.
Use a calendar to log your writing. Put an “x” on the days you do your work (as does Jerry Seinfeld).
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this bestselling book is the fact that it is a mere 49 pages in length (and contains many illustrations). This proves, once again, that less is often more for today’s busy reader (By the way, never once did I feel ripped off! I only thought, “How nice he’s condensed the most important elements into this compact little book.”).
This book is a “must have” for every author!