Steal Like an Artist

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Quick Summary

A quick ten chapter practical philosophy that taps into the creative person inside us all.

Steal Like an Artist
Austin Kleon
The Review

Steal Like an Artist

It’s a book for everybody

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon is a New York Times Bestseller about being creative, but not necessarily for just artists. His ten chapter practical philosophy taps into the creative person inside us all. A short book that can be read in a couple of hours, Austin inspires his readers to create, write, build and be inspired. Not every great creation or piece of art is an original idea. The author argues that every new idea is a mashup or remix of one or more previous ideas.

So many “self help/creative” books are a version of positive thinking. And while Kleon is positive he is also proactive. “Steal” is an action verb and it just so appealed to the goody-two-shoes side of me. Instead of running away from our heroes and influences, we should build upon them. Kleon encourages his readers to “Steal Like an Artist”.

Is it something a designer should read?

As a designer, this book definitely is full of plenty of ideas to spark creativity and motivation to enhance your work and become a better artist. The book is broken down into 10 chapters, one for each of 10 aspects of “stealing” like an artist. Each chapter includes anecdotes and examples that help bring these ideas to life and make them practical and usable.

While the ideas in the book have some inter-connections, the chapters in the book each also stand alone, and can be read on their own and in any order, and can provide a quick “creativity booster shot” whenever you need one.

These chapters comprise “10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative”. Frankly, they are what I got the most out of the book. I highly recommend reading through them now.

I kind of get the feeling that the answer in design is mostly "yes"

I kind of get the feeling that the answer in design is mostly “yes”

It all boils down to this

1. Steal like an artist

“The only art I’ll ever study is stuff that I can steal from” – David Bowie

2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started

Remember that even The Beatles started as cover band, as McCartney recalls, they only started writing their own songs “as a way to avoid other bands being able to play our set.”

3. Write the book you want to read

Kleon advises his readers to not write what they know but to write what they like. The kind of stuff they want to read. He adds that this mantra can be applied to life too.

4. Use your hands

Bring your body into your work and touch what you’re creating.

5. Side projects and hobbies are important

If you have two or three passions, don’t feel like you have to pick and choose between them.

6. The secret: do good work and share it with people

The not-so-secret formula for becoming known: create good work and share it.

7. Geography is not longer our master

Your brain gets too comfortable in your everyday surroundings. You need to make it uncomfortable once in a while.

8. Be nice (the world is a small town)

If you ever find you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.

9. Be boring (it’s the only way to get work done)

This was the weakest chapter in the book that coves general life advice, which is tangential to being creative.

10. Creativity is a subtraction

It’s often what an artist chooses leaves out is what makes art interesting.

Well, except for the stuff that is

Well, except for the stuff that is

Great advice is wasted if it isn’t used

I got a lot out of this book. It was an easy read, although a bit more towards the “self-help” part of the spectrum for my personal tastes. I’ve already passed it on to friends and you should give it a go, too.

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Steal Like an Artist

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