Saturday, July 28, 2012

Review: STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST by Austin Kleon

Amazon calls it "self-help"
You can buy it here, or visit the author's website

I absolutely loved this book! I recommend it to everyone with creative pursuits or even non creative pursuits.  I recommend this to you if you can read.

The author is an artist and writer and in this brief and cleverly laid out book describes the top ten tips he'd give to a younger version of himself about being creative.  Those tips I've had experience with I found to be really good advice, and the new ones I'm excited to try out.

This one's my favorite:

"Think about your favorite work and your creative heroes. What did they miss? What didn't they make? What could've been made better? If they were still alive, what would they be making today? If all your favorite makers got together and collaborated, what would they make with you leading the crew? Go make that stuff."

Just the thought of Steinbeck, Anne Bishop, Gaiman, Waterhouse, Maggie Stiefvater, and Jon Crosby getting together and creating something makes my insides quiver.  What would they make?  What would they make if I were on the team too? WOW. Damn.  I want to make that!

Here are some others that resonated with me:

"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.  There are too many opportunities to hit the delete key.  The computer brings out the uptight perfectionist in us - we start editing ideas before we have them."

I've been in a writing funk lately, and now I'm going to try really hard to only write in a notebook for a few weeks and see if it makes a difference.  See if I'm more merciful with my prose when I can't so easily erase it from existence.  See if it's better the next day, or if the next day I can find a way to make it better.  I'm excited to try.  No more editing ideas before we have them! Just heavily editing them after :)

"Artists aren't magicians.  There's no penalty for sharing your secrets."

This is a big one! I feel like writers live in constant fear of being stolen from, to the point where we smother our own work instead of sharing it and giving it the air and light and attention it needs to grow. And while it's good to be conscious of where and how we post our work, I want to believe that sharing is better than not.

On this front, the title of the book of course alludes to the way we are inspired by (okay... steal) the things around us and from other artists. There is an obsession with originality that makes me feel at times so wary of copying others I completely box myself in. One thing I love about this book is the advice Kleon gives about how to "steal" in a way that honors source material and creates something new(ish) and interesting in its own right. I won't give you any spoilers about this.  You should read it!

Overall, this book gave me a lot of great ideas on how to jumpstart new projects and greatly reduced my anxiety about stepping on other toes during my process.  I'm a lot better off having read it, and I expect it will be my birthday present to all my friends this year :).

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