Steal Like An Artist

Austin Kleon wrote Steal Like An Artist  — alluding, presumably, to the unsubstantiated Picasso quote “Good artists copy, great artists steal”. The book is intended for “anyone who’s trying to inject some creativity into their life and their work”. I found it a stimulating and thought-provoking read.

There are 10 chapters — creativity guidelines:

  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. The Secret: do good work and share it with people
  7. Geography is now longer our master
  8. Be nice. (The world is a small town.)
  9. Be boring. (It’s the only way to get work done.)
  10. Creativity is subtraction.

Each chapter has examples and specific suggestions on what to do. For example, in chapter 2, there’s a subheading: “Fake it ’til you make it”.

I love this phrase. There are two ways to read it:

1. Pretend to be something you’re not until you are — fake it until you’re successful, until everybody sees you the way you want them to; or

2. Pretend to be making something until you actually make something.

In Chapter 9: Get yourself a calendar:

The comedian Jerry Seinfeld has a calendar method that helps him, stick to his daily joke writing… get a wall calendar that shows you the whole year… break your work into daily chunks. Each day, when you’re finished with your work make a big fat X in the day’s box. Every day, instead of getting work done, your goal is just to fill a box. “After a few days you’ll have a chain, ” Seinfeld says. “Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is not to break the chain”

So I’ve now got one X on my calendar.

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