Book Club of One: Steal Like an Artist


Over the weekend we happened to spend most of the day up at my mother-in-law’s house, including the Bit’s naptime. My sweetie was helping her move furniture around, but I wasn’t, so I fired up the Kindle up on my phone to find something to read. What I settled on was Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, a tiny (160 pages) little book I’d downloaded a few months ago on recommendation from one of my cousins. I didn’t know what to expect at all, but some days you need a little boost, and since the subtitle of this book is 10 Things No One Told You About Being CreativeI thought it might be a little inspiring. And it was.

how to steal like an artist
The 10 things, stolen from steallikeanartist.com

This wee book — I finished it in just a couple of hours — has an important message (or 10, really) about being creative and making a life in a creative field. What stood out most to me was the reminder that everyone steals. It’s true there are no original ideas (people have been saying that as long ago as the bible, so even that isn’t an original idea!). The key is to make yourself open to the experiences that can most shape what you want to say, to take all your influences and combine them in an epic mashup with your own point of view. It’s not about copying the work you admire but about synthesizing all you’re learned in your education about your topic or media (that’s different from school) and seeing what comes out through your lens.

We should also think of creating not in terms of trying to copy what people we admire have done but to try to make something they would enjoy. I think that’s a really cool idea. He also mentioned that you can think of your own work as being a collaboration by all those people who influenced you, so it comes out looking like something original even though it’s the product of all those influences.

What this means it that we shouldn’t feel guilty for looking at — and being inspired by — other people’s stuff. In fact, it’s necessary to making our stuff to be influenced by what’s already out there.

That means we need to experience all we can — read widely, travel, have hobbies that may have nothing to do with the art we make primarily — so all that can be part of the experience expressed in your creations.

The part about having a hobby apart from the creative stuff you do for money hits me because I don’t really have that. Well, I write this blog and make stuff for it as a hobby (no one is paying me for it yet!) but other than that I don’t have much.

Reading also used to be a big hobby of mine that I don’t do much any more(at least non-work reading) and this book reminded me of the importance of that, too.

I think the big thing I took away form this little book is that I can’t be isolated in my office forever. Even if I don’t leave I need to be immersed in the outside world. WE all do.

So I guess all that blog reading I do has a purpose after all!

Have you read Steal Like an Artist? How do you feel about the idea that we need to be heavily influenced in order to make good stuff of our own? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this book or creating and influence/inspiration in general.

Thanks for visiting, commenting and sharing!

I should mention, too, that though that’s an Amazon link up there, it’s not an affiliate link. They don’t allow affiliates in Arkansas because we have a law about collecting sales tax on Internet sales. So shop freely, if you want.

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