Austin Kleon's Blog

August 17, 2017

Free tip for young writers: Go to Goodwill and buy a gigantic used paper dictionary for $5 and keep it on your desk. Here’s mine:

All sorts of interesting, serendipitous things happen when you use a paper dictionary, because when you look for a specific word, you have to brush past all sorts of other words before you find the one you’re looking for.

When you really take the time to explore a bit, you see words in context alongside words with similar roots and it can give you a bunch of diff...

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Published on August 17, 2017 18:28 • 54 views

August 10, 2017

The threat of nuclear war has been with us for over 70 years, and dreading the end of the world is an ancient human activity, but recent headlines have put it all all top-of-mind again, petrifying many of us. (The upcoming solar eclipse isn’t putting me at ease, either.)

We all deal in different ways. For me, it’s drawing comics full of skulls — little memento mori that keep bubbling up from some dark vat of goo in my brain. I’ll keep drawing them as long as they keep visiting me.

For this c...

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Published on August 10, 2017 17:32 • 49 views

I continue to be fascinated by how slow, seemingly inefficient methods make my self-education more helpful and more meaningful.

Example: This week I was reading Jan Swafford’s introduction to classical music, Language of the Spirit, and I wanted to see the lives of all the composers on a timeline. Instead of googling for one, I decided to just make one for myself with a pencil in my notebook. It was kind of a pain, but I had a feeling I’d learn something. Pretty much immediately I was able t...

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Published on August 10, 2017 17:29 • 21 views

August 3, 2017

never pay for wifi

One of my favorite discoveries this year was Nina Katchadourian’s Seat Assignment, an ongoing project she started in 2010, in which she uses long plane rides to make art using only her camera phone and materials on hand. She’ll build shelters out of snacks, she’ll make gorillas out of sweaters, she’ll go into the bathroom and dress up like old Flemish paintings. (My favorite pieces are from the “High Altitude Spirit Photography” series, where she’ll use a little sprinkled salt or the glare f...

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Published on August 03, 2017 11:39 • 30 views

July 27, 2017

A friend of mine said he didn’t know how long he could wake up to such horrible news every day. I suggested to him that he shouldn’t wake up to the news at all, and neither should anyone else.

There’s almost nothing in the news that any of us need to read in the first hour (or two or three or four…) of our day.

If you’re using news or social media to wake up, try this instead: When you wake up, don’t pick up your phone. Head to the bliss station, play with your kids, write in your notebook,...

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Published on July 27, 2017 12:43 • 38 views

July 20, 2017

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Published on July 20, 2017 17:54 • 37 views

July 13, 2017

Raymond Carver loved to quote Isak Dinesen, who said that she wrote a little every day, without hope and without despair.

“Someday,” he wrote, “I’ll put that on a three-by-five-card and tape it to the wall beside my desk.”

I stole his idea for my bliss station:


His widow, the poet Tess Gallagher, said these words were a “quiet banner of determination” that flew over the last decade of his life.

They are now my banner, and they can also be yours,...

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Published on July 13, 2017 11:19 • 34 views

Whenever anybody talks about “The Creative Journey” I sort of roll my eyes. “Journey” sounds so lofty to me. So linear. Point A to point B.

Here’s a popular version of “The Creative Journey”: A genius comes to the end of his trip, closes his eyes, concentrates, and then the idea comes to him, fully formed.

When I’m working on my art, I don’t feel like Don Draper. No, when I’m working, I feel more like Phil Connors from the movie Groundhog Day.

In Groundhog Day, for those of you who don’t kn...

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Published on July 13, 2017 10:10 • 26 views

July 6, 2017

The Quakers: “Do not speak unless you can improve upon the silence.”

Garry Shandling: “The world is too noisy and distracted to probably ultimately survive. Everyone needs to shut the fuck up. The answers are in the silence. Monks set themselves on fire to protest and to make this point. Just consider it.”

Depeche Mode: “Words like violence / break the silence…”

Morris Berman: “It takes silence and slow time to be creative, and those things are threatening to most Americans, because they und...

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Published on July 06, 2017 13:26 • 50 views

June 29, 2017

I shared this doodle from my notebook on Instagram the other day and everyone who commented seemed to assume that it was about Writing, as in, Writing Books, or getting Work done. (See a previous post of mine: “Shut up and write the book.”)

What it was really about was the old idea of having a “loose tongue,” or saying out loud the things that you should keep to yourself. In the home, in the workplace, or on the internet. (Perhaps the phrase needs an update for the smartphone age: It’s our t...

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Published on June 29, 2017 12:24 • 51 views