When I am looking for a boost of creativity I often find myself pulling out the book, Steal Like an Artist. Austin Kleon’s unique black marker artwork is visible on just about every page. And that alone sometimes is enough to get my creative juices flowing, but the content of the book is invaluable as it pulls back the curtain on the creative process, and teaches you that you don’t need to be a genius–you just need to be yourself. It shows (and here is where the title comes from) how everyone from Pablo Picasso to Kobe Bryant has stolen ideas from others who have inspired them.
“Art is theft”
The hopeful message is surprisingly consistent: even the people who you admire got their ideas from other people that they admired. And so on and so on back through the ages. The author reminds us that even the Beatles started out as a cover band and that the Bible states that “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal;
bad poets deface what they take,
and good poets make it into something better,
or at least something different.
The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique,
utterly different from that from which it was torn.”
-T. S. Eliot
In addition to making the point that it’s okay to steal inspiration from other creators, Austin Kleon rounds out his book with 9 more lessons that “nobody told you about.” Here is a list of all 10 of his lessons–which are also the titles of his chapters.
2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to start making things
3. Write the book you want to read
4. Use your hands
5. Side projects are important
6. Do good work and put it where people can see it
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
I highly recommend this inexpensive fun little square book. It’s aesthetically appealing design and controversial sounding title makes it a great tabletop conversation starter. But it is also endlessly inspirational to learn from other artists and creators who have been there before and struggled with the same things that you may be facing now.