Steal Like an Artist

steal like an artist

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

This is a really quick read full of great advice for artists of any type. Musicians, painters, and writers can all learn from these short 150 pages.

Here are some of the things I picked up from the book.

Nurture Your Passions

“If you have two or three passions, don’t feel like you have to pick and choose between them. Don’t discard. Keep all your passions in your life. This is something I learned from the playwright Steven Tomlinson.”

Great advice! Keep your passions and devote time to all of them. We don’t need to give things up simply because we are getting old.

Do Good Work 

“Step one, ‘do good work,’ is incredibly hard. There are no shortcuts. Make stuff every day. Know you’re going to suck for a while. Fail. Get better.”

That is the first step of every artist. Create every day!

Share Your Work

Step two, ‘share it with people,’ was really hard up until about ten years ago or so. Now, it’s very simple: ‘Put your stuff on the Internet.'”

This one is hard, despite the ease of being able to release stuff to the world these days. I know from experience. I have work that I haven’t shipped, to use a phrase from Seth Godin. 

Give Yourself Space and Time

That is one of the main ingredients to be creative.

“All you need is a little space and a little time – a place to work, and some time to do it.”

The author talks about going for walks without bringing along his technology, for riding the bus to work even though it’s faster to drive, for going to a first-come, first-served barbershop, and for hanging out at the library.

“I always carry a book, a pen, and a notepad, and I always enjoy my solitude and temporary captivity.”

Write Fan Letters

I want to try this one. I have written and received a response from my favourite actress, but haven’t really taken the time to write anyone else,. I should!

“If you truly love somebody’s work, you shouldn’t need a response from them. . . So I recommend public fan letters. The Internet is really good for this . . . Maybe your hero will see your work, maybe he or she won’t. Maybe they’ll respond to you, maybe not. The important thing is that you show your appreciation without expecting anything in return, and that you get new work out of the appreciation.”

Keep a Log Book

“just a little book in which you list the things you do every day . . . It’s much easier than keeping a detailed diary, and you’d be amazed how helpful having  a daily record like this  can be, especially over several years. The small details will help you remember the big details.”

I journal, so I am not sure I need to do this one, but I really like the idea!

Embrace Limitations 

I know rap producers who feel they have learned how to make good music from the limitations of using old school gear with limited sampling time, from DJs using merely turntables and a mixer, to artists working within a certain medium.

“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. . . . The right constraints can lead to your very best work. Dr. Seuss wrote The Cat in the Hat with only 236 different words, so his editor bet him he couldn’t write a book with only 50 different words. Dr. Seuss came back and won the bet with Green Eggs and Ham, one of the best-selling children’s books of all time.”

Limitations help foster art.

My 2015 Reading Log – continually updated with links to every title I read