Nov. 1, 2020

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon: How to unlock your creativity and make better work

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About the Book

An inspiring guide to creativity in the digital age, Steal Like an Artist presents ten transformative principles that will help readers discover their artistic side and build a more creative life.

Nothing is original, so embrace influence, school yourself through the work of others, remix and reimagine to discover your own path. Follow interests wherever they take you—what feels like a hobby may turn into you life’s work. Forget the old cliché about writing what you know: Instead, write the book you want to read, make the movie you want to watch.

And finally, stay Smart, stay out of debt, and risk being boring in the everyday world so that you have the space to be wild and daring in your imagination and your work.



About the Author

Austin Kleon is the New York Times bestselling author of a trilogy of illustrated books about creativity in the digital age: Steal Like An ArtistShow Your Work!, and Keep Going. He’s also the author of Newspaper Blackout, a collection of poems made by redacting the newspaper with a permanent marker. His books have been translated into dozens of languages and have sold over a million copies worldwide. 

He’s been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, PBS Newshour, and in The New York Times and The Wall Street JournalNew York Magazine called his work “brilliant,” The Atlantic called him “positively one of the most interesting people on the Internet,” and The New Yorker said his poems “resurrect the newspaper when everybody else is declaring it dead.” 

He speaks for organizations such as Pixar, Google, SXSW, TEDx, and The Economist. In previous lives, he worked as a librarian, a web designer, and an advertising copywriter. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and sons. 


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BIG IDEA 1 (5:33) – Nothing is original

It is a fact that all new things are combinations or revisits of old ideas. And constantly wanting to do something original will stop you from doing anything, because you’ll be paralysed by the idea of needing to make something different, and likely end up doing nothing. 

So stop trying to create from nothing. And a little bit of intentional copying can be good, especially during the learning process. But start thinking about and analysing the thinking behind an idea, not just the final output or a piece of work (which will just be plagiarism). 

Nothing is original. You will undo yourself trying to create something new, which will be unhelpful and stop us from creating anything, never mind anything good.


BIG IDEA 2 (6:42) – 10 rules to unlock creativity

The book is split into ten sections, or the ten underlying rules that Austin believes are at the heart of creativity and important to bear in mind.

  1. Steal like an artist
  2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started
  3. Write the book you want to read
  4. Use your hands
  5. Side projects and hobbies are important
  6. Do good work and share it
  7. Geography is no longer our master
  8. Be nice
  9. Be boring
  10. Creativity is subtraction


BIG IDEA 3 (8:09) – Don’t throw any of yourself away

During your life you have likely given a part of you away, to do your job or live the way you do. It might have been stopping a hobby or something you loved doing as a child. You may or may not notice how missing they are from your life until you start doing it again.

It’s important to have hobbies to keep yourself sane. You might find special connections between the hobbies and the work you do. You may start seeing things in a different way, which can even help you do better work.


Music: Days of light by Simming


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