I’ve been hearing a lot about this book, so I decided to check it out. It’s written by an artist for artists, so the book itself is very creatively presented. The title is the real attention getter, of course. The word stealing makes me uncomfortable, but the author makes his point across very convincingly: The human mind is incapable of making a perfect copy. So even if you’re copying, you are already injecting yourself into your work. It’s great advice for creatives who are just starting out, and still haven’t found their own style. Start by copying work that you like. Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style. Copy from people you’re inspired by, and not just one person. That’s how you find what your own thing is.
The hardest part about creative work is starting it. As artists, we are often plagued by doubt and indecision. A blank canvass can be so intimidating to someone just starting out (or even to a more experienced artist). Draw the art you want to see. Write the story you want to read. Play the story you want to hear. Isn’t that a great manifesto?
There will come a point where you’ll move on from imitating other artists to emulating them instead. Kleon explains that imitation is about copying, but emulation is about breaking through into your own thing. Don’t just become a replica of someone else, otherwise you’ll end up being called “the next ___”. Once you find your style, you will start creating more authentic work.
Here’s a summary of the 10 points Austin Kleon made in the book:
- Steal like an artist
- Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started
- Write the book you want to read
- Use your hands
- Side projects and hobbies are important
- Do good work and share it with people
- Geography is no longer our master
- Be nice (the world is a small town)
- Be boring (it’s the only way to get work done)
- Creativity is subtraction
I won’t go into the details of each one of them, but they were great reminders. It’s a fast and easy read, so it’s great for those with short attention spans too.