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Steal Like an Artist - Austin Kleon [Book Review]

By Edited Sep 24, 2015 4 8

My Takeaways From Austin Kleon's "Steal Like an Artist"

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative Emma Swift 2013-11-16 5.0 0 5
Steal Like an Artist
Credit: http://austinkleon.com/steal/

My Takeaways From the Book

In Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon walks us through his reasoning about why creative success is based on the realization that every creative idea is stolen work. Nothing is original because the world is merely in a state of constant evolution. Everything “new” can technically be argued to have a predecessor upon which this “new” product improves. 

One of the best excuses people have is “I’m just not a creative person”. That is such a cop-out because that’s just you giving up before giving yourself a chance to start. Creativity can be strengthened through practice, just like any other skill. This is no guarantee you’ll ultimately be the best, but every skill can definitely be improved upon for anyone. This is important as he states: “If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.” 

Instead, whenever we encounter something that we think is brilliant (whether it be random thoughts / observations, book passages, magazine articles, beautiful designs, or eavesdropping), we should store it in a “swipe file” to steal whenever you need some additional inspiration. 

"To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research."

If you’re doing creative work, don’t get discouraged that you don’t have as many followers as other people, or that no one seems to be noticing. I’ve experienced this feeling a couple times in my life but over the years, I’ve realized that underlying this fear is the feeling that my best work is the stuff I am producing now. I worry that if I use all my ideas in the present, what will I do if I don’t have any more in the future?

Relax. Ideas come and go. More ideas will come. The only thing you can do is do good work, and share with the world… and just keep swiping ;)

“Modern art = I could do that + Yeah, but you didn’t.”

Many people also use the excuse that a day job they don’t like is “suppressing their creativity”. Kleon argues that is hardly the case. Freeing yourself from financial worries can also free your mind to be more creative. “Establishing and keeping a routine can be even more important than having a lot of time.” If you get into a routine, say you commit 90 mins daily, no excuses, that you are actively carving out of your busy day, you’ll find that the opposite of Parkinson’s Law is also valid: Work gets done in the time available. 

“The right constraints can lead to your best work.”

Success build on success, so if you have a calendar where you put an “X” every day that you commit that 90 mins, when you see a streak of ten “X”s, you won’t want to break it, and if you do, you’ll be striving to overcome that streak and creating a longer one. 

Lastly, I’ll leave you with Kleon’s wisdom that in this world of limitless possibilities and information overload: 

“... creativity isn’t just the things we choose to put in, it’s the things we choose to leave out.”

* * *

I have learned so much from this concise, easy to read book by Austin Kleon. Full of insights that I could never fully cover in this short review of my takeaways, I just hope that I have influenced you a little more to consider adding this brilliant book to your permanent collection.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
Amazon Price: $12.95 $4.03 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 24, 2015)


Nov 27, 2013 7:11pm
I'm always looking for ways to stretch my creativity. I think I will give this a read.
Jan 12, 2014 1:53pm
This book can definitely help with that. What did you think?
Dec 15, 2013 9:19am
Saw this article through the @Infobarrel tweet. The review made me curious enough to pick up the book and read it for myself.
Jan 12, 2014 1:53pm
Did you love it?
Dec 15, 2013 9:32am
I loved that book
Dec 15, 2013 7:38pm
This is on my to read list. I am always looking for inspiration. Thanks for your review.
Dec 15, 2013 8:32pm
Amazing review. Now I cant wait to read the book :)
Dec 24, 2013 8:37am
This really does bring me to the fantasy genre. In my writings, I'm always building on old tropes. But I feel that the fantasy genre is a little too European and I always wanted it to be African so that I can provide people with such pride and knowledge of Africa. So I do believe that the world is in constant evolution and nothing is ever original. Thank you for such a great post.
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