About stealing like an artist

I have read somewhere that when you steal an idea you should rework that idea that you stole so that the person that you stole it from can’t say for certain that it was in fact their idea. And then I got curious about what Austin Kleon say about stealing like an artist…

He gives a lot of food for thought in bite-sized chunks in his book, Steal like an artist: 10 things nobody told you about being creative.

I liked his idea of starting with one thinker/writer/artist/whatever that you love and getting to know all about that person’s work and then getting to know about the people who influenced that person’s work until you have a type of family tree of influences on your own work. Because, as Kleon puts it, You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.

“We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.” – Goethe

It could be an interesting exercise to look at the various people that played a role in your own development as a person/writer/artist. For me, novelists that form part of my history is Terry Pratchett and two Afrikaans writers, Dalene Matthee and Deon Meyer. I think the only thing these three writers have in common is the fact that I am a reader of their work!

Another of Kleon’s ideas that made sense to me, was to not throw any of yourself away.

“Don’t throw any of yourself away.” – Austin Kleon

Maybe you’re a writer but also love playing guitar and drawing cartoons. People tend to think that if they want to get more serious about their writing, they should stop playing guitar and stop drawing cartoons and only focus on the writing. But these other aspects that form part of you are important for you to be able to do your best work. It gives you a different perspective and could be a valuable source of ideas.

Actually, stealing like an artist is but one of the chapters in the book. The whole thing is filled with good and inspiring advice on how to incorporate creativity into your life.

Make stuff you love…

Just finished reading Austin Kleon’s book Show your work. He’s also the author of Steal like an artist, a book I haven’t read. I thought I needed more encouragement in the showing my work side of things than in the stealing side of things. Kleon says this book is for people who hate the very idea of self-promotion!

I have found with my “experimentations” with creativity, that it’s hard to show my work to others. [Especially when you make something for someone as a gift and you’re not sure they’ll like it. Or worse, someone asks you to make something for them based on something else you made… To be the cause of unmet expectations…]

But our job is not to worry about what others think about our work. Our job is to do the work. (I’m pretty sure Julie Cameron said it in one of her books on creativity.)

Kleon says it’s better to contribute something than to contribute nothing.

“Just do the work that’s in front of you.” Austin Kleon

When it’s finished, evaluate without too much introspection what you could have done differently or better and go on to your next project. Keep it going. He argues that you should share some of your work every day. Of course, the idea is that you are in fact creating something every day. In this way you are building up your body of work. Become good at what you do.

“Being good at things is the only thing that earns you clout or connections.” Austin Kleon

“Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love and you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff. It’s that simple.” Austin Kleon