If you’re in the market for a new book, allow me to submit Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative for your consideration. The book is an efficient and unique collection of perspectives on and insights into being a better artist. I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I figured I’d share five of the ideas from the book that stuck with me:
- A new, demystified perspective on creativity — The misconception that the innovative art and designs we admire can paralyze us. How could we ever be as brilliant as to pull Star Wars or the first-gen iPhone out thin air like their creators did? The secret is that they weren’t pulled out of thin air; they were creative advancements, interpretations, and expressions of previous work and ideas. (See Kirby Ferguson’s Everything is a Remix series for more on this concept.) Here’s Kleon: “The writer Jonathan Lethem has said that when people call something ‘original,’ nine out of ten times they just don’t know the references or the original sources involved.”
- Study the greats — It’s great to learn from the best living novelist who resides in your town, but might you learn more from Hemingway and Faulkner? Kleon writes: “The great thing about dead or remote masters is that they can’t refuse you as an apprentice. You can learn whatever you want from them. They left their lesson plans in their work.”
- Analog and digital workstations — This one blew my mind. Kleon has separate desks for analog creation and digital creation because of the different ways analog and digital are conducive to the creative process. Try this workflow: Use analog tools (like a pen and a sketchbook) for ideas, dreaming and exploring. Then use digital tools to execute and publish the ideas you generate.
- Be intentional in your friends and follows — We all need to spend time with people who inspire us, stretch us, and challenge us to grow. Otherwise we’re in danger of tapering off creatively. Befriend brilliant people and follow the work (and tweets) of people who are smarter than you. Kleon’s advice: “If you ever find that you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.”
- There’s no need to be too protective — This concept makes me think of Seth Godin, a man who is generous (as opposed to stingy) with his ideas. Much of his influence is derived from the ideas he freely shares with his tribe. In fact, this circles back to the first point about demystifying creativity — the idea you’re tempted to keep secret is likely a subtle variation of someone else’s public idea … so get over yourself. Kleon quotes Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”
There are many more valuable nuggets in Steal Like an Artist, so hopefully these five piqued your interest. The book is a quick, fun read, and it makes a great gift too.
Here’s the book trailer for Steal Like an Artist:
Find out more about the book and Austin Kleon here.
Scott McClellan is the Editor of Echo Hub and the Director of Echo Conference. You can follow him on Twitter: @scottmcclellan.