Steal Like An Artist—10 Keys to Creativity from Austin Kleon

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Austin Kleon (photo by Ryan Essmaker)

On the heels of Austin Kleon‘s second book Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered, I read his first one, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. Both are highly recommended.

These form a perfect pair. Steal is about creating good work; Show is about sharing that work with the world. Each book is short, visual, and dense with useful ideas.

I’ve summarized Show here. Following is the table of contents from Steal and a sampling of delicious quotes.

Note: When Austin uses the world steal, he means choosing your influences and finding novel connections between existing ideas—all while giving proper credit to your sources.

Steal Like An Artist

First you figure out what’s worth stealing, then you move on to the next thing.

All creative work builds on what came before.

You are the sum of your influences.

You’re only going to be as good as the stuff you surround yourself with.

…chew on one thinker—writer, artist, activist, role model—you really love.

Keep a swipe file.

Don’t Wait Until You Know Who You Are to Get Started

It’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are.

Pretend to be making something until you actually make something.

You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.

Emulation is when imitation goes one step further, breaking through into your own thing.

Write the Book You Want to Read

Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use—do the work you want to see done.

Use Your Hands

The computer is really good for editing your ideas, and it’s really good for getting your ideas ready for publishing out into the world, but it’s not really good for generating ideas.

Side Projects and Hobbies Are Important

Creative people need time to just sit around and do nothing.

Keep all your passions in life…. what unifies your work is the fact that you made it.

The Secret: Do Good Work and Share It With People

…you want attention only after you’re doing really good work.

Step 1: Wonder at something. Step 2: Invite others to wonder with you….

Geography Is No Longer Our Master

…90 percent of my mentors and peers don’t live in Austin, Texas. They live everywhere.

Your brain gets too comfortable in your everyday surroundings.

Be Nice. (The World is a Small Town)

There’s only one reason I’m here: I’m here to make friends.

You’re only going to be as good as the people you surround yourself with.

…get angry. But keep your mouth shut and go do your work.

…show your appreciation without expecting anything in return….

… get comfortable with being misunderstood, disparaged, or ignored.

…it’s still a tremendous boost when people say nice things about our work.

Be Boring. (It’s the Only Way to Get Work Done.)

Eat breakfast. Do some push-ups. Go for long walks. Get plenty of sleep.

The art of holding on to money is all about saying no to consumer culture.

A day job gives you money, a connection to the world, and a routine.

Creativity is Subtraction

The right constraints can lead to your very best work.