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Preview — Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
by Austin Kleon
Read between September 19 - September 23, 2019
What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.
“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”
You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life. You are the sum of your influences. The German writer Goethe said, “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”
The artist is a collector. Not a hoarder, mind you, there’s a difference: Hoarders collect indiscriminately, artists collect selectively. They only collect things that they really love.
You’re only going to be as good as the stuff you surround yourself with.
Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by.
Fake it ’til you make it.
First, you have to figure out who to copy. Second, you have to figure out what to copy.
The writer Wilson Mizner said if you copy from one author, it’s plagiarism, but if you copy from many, it’s research.
Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.
The manifesto is this: Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use—do the work you want to see done.
You don’t need a scientific study (of which there are a few) to tell you that sitting in front of a computer all day is killing you, and killing your work. We need to move, to feel like we’re making something with our bodies, not just our heads.
It wasn’t until I started bringing analog tools back into my process that making things became fun again and my work started to improve.
“The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”
Creative people need time to just sit around and do nothing.
Don’t throw any of yourself away. Don’t worry about a grand scheme or unified vision for your work. Don’t worry about unity—what unifies your work is the fact that you made it. One day, you’ll look back and it will all make sense.
People love it when you give your secrets away, and sometimes, if you’re smart about it, they’ll reward you by buying the things you’re selling.
Your brain gets too comfortable in your everyday surroundings. You need to make it uncomfortable. You need to spend some time in another land, among people that do things differently than you. Travel makes the world look new, and when the world looks new, our brains work harder.
You’re only going to be as good as the people you surround yourself with.
If you ever find that you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.
“Complain about the way other people make software by making software.” —Andre Torrez
Establishing and keeping a routine can be even more important than having a lot of time.
Do the work every day, no matter what. No holidays, no sick days. Don’t stop.
Work gets done in the time available.
Who you marry is the most important decision you’ll ever make. And “marry well” doesn’t just mean your life partner—it also means who you do business with, who you befriend, who you choose to be around.
In this age of information abundance and overload, those who get ahead will be the folks who figure out what to leave out, so they can concentrate on what’s really important to them.
In the end, creativity isn’t just the things we choose to put in, it’s the things we choose to leave out.