Steal Like an Artist

kleon-steal-like-an-artist-coverAuthor: Austin Kleon
Title: Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
Published: Feb 28, 2012

I’ve been following Austin Kleon for quite awhile. I love the Newspaper Blackout series he posts on his blog and on Twitter. I also really appreciate his blog posts related to creativity. For one reason or another, I had never found time to read his book. That changed when I was in Powell’s bookstore in Portland, OR for an Automattic meetup. I grabbed Austin’s book off the shelf and started reading (it was in the suggested reading section). Within 45 minutes or so, I was 3/4 of the way through Steal Like an Artist and recording every third sentence out of the book as a memorable quote. Needless to say, I purchased the book on the spot along with his next book, Show Your Work.

Austin writes in a straight-to-the-point type of style only including the necessary information and leaving out all of the fluff. He draws from numerous sources for support and communicates his ideas in a way that is both informative and inspiring. I put down the book with a desire to start writing more and the urge to write an e-book, which I’m in the process of sketching out. Both Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work are two must-reads for creative individuals. Together, they’ll help you get out of your shell, think up your next project/idea, and show it to the world.

Reading Notes

There were really too many to include. This is just a snapshot.

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.

As the French writer André Gide put it, “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”

You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life. You are the sum of your influences.

The writer Wilson Mizner said if you copy from one author, it’s plagiarism, but if you copy from many, it’s research.

The manifesto is this: Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use—do the work you want to see done.

“The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”

“Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” 

“Find the most talented person in the room, and if it’s not you, go stand next to him. Hang out with him. Try to be helpful.” Ramis was lucky: The most talented person in the room was his friend Bill Murray. If you ever find that you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.

Don’t make excuses for not working—make things with the time, space, and materials you have, right now.

The right constraints can lead to your very best work. My favorite example? 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 bestselling children’s books of all time.

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