Steal like an artist by Austin Kleon is inspiring and constructive book that presents ten transformative principles that will help readers discover their artistic side and build a more creative life. It is meant for anyone, people like me who work every day in the creative world, but also for people who lack some inspiration and encouragement to start doing the things they long lusted, but never tried, just because they’ve been afraid that someone, somewhere has already done the same or similar, and their work won’t be original or appreciated.
If something, this book teaches us that nothing is original, we need to embrace the influence, school ourselves through the work of others, infuse and reimagine to discover our own path. The motto of the author is: “Forget the old cliché about writing what you know: Instead, write the book you want to read, make the movie you want to watch.”
The book is written in ten small chapters, each an advice from the author’s personal experience. In his theory when people give you advice, they are really just talking to themselves in the past.
“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.
The book was first made by hand in the author’s “analog office”-as he says. We can see some handwritten fonts, hand drawn pictures, newspaper cuts which all make the book more interesting and eye-catching. In my opinion, it gives some personal touch to the book and I can imagine the author in his office making it, page by page, drawing all the pictures and putting all together thinking if we, the readers, would see his creation in the way he envisioned, or as something completely different, and what’d that be like.
One of his advices is to step away from the screen, which I personally find very useful. He says that the computers have robbed us of the feeling that we are actually making things. We need to find a way to bring the body into our work. The computer is really good for editing ideas, and really good for getting ideas ready for publishing out into the world, but it’s not really good for generating ideas. So use sketchbooks, notebooks, make analog desk that has nothing but markers, pens, pencils, paper, newspapers, nothing electronic. That’s where the ideas and concepts should be born.
Another great thing that I learned from the book, and I practice it now, is keeping a logbook. Logbook is actually a chart of past events. It isn’t necessarily a diary or a journal, it’s just a little book in which you list the thing you do every day. What project you worked on, where you went to lunch, what movie you saw. It’s just small details that will help you remember the big details over several years, when you need them. In the old days, a logbook was a place for sailors to keep track of how far they’d travel. That’s exactly what we are doing – keeping track of how far our ship has sailed.
I think this book is an easy read that will open new possibilities and new point of view, not just for artists, but anyone who’s trying to inject some creativity into their life and their work.
“What is originality?
-William Ralph Inge