Summary -  Steal Like an Artist - Austin Kleon

Summary - Steal Like an Artist - Austin Kleon


  • Steal from anywhere that inspires you. Remix and reimagine to make the ideas your own.

  • Don't wait to get started. You learn who you are and what you want to say through the act of making things.

  • Write about things you want to read. Make the work you wish you could discover.

  • Use your hands and make physical objects. Making things helps you think.

  • Have hobbies and side projects that energize you. Follow your interests.

  • Do good work and share it with people. Build an audience.

  • You are no longer limited by your geography. The Internet has freed us. Share your work far and wide.

  • Be nice. The world is a small town. Treat people well on your way up - you may see them again on your way down.

  • Be boring and focus on your work. Creativity arises from routine and habit.

  • Creativity is subtraction. Focus on essential elements by removing the nonessential.

In summary, don't worry about your identity or experience. Just start creating. Steal ideas without judgment, do the work you want to see, build an audience, focus on discipline, and remove the nonessential. Make, share, and connect. That's the creative life.

  • The world is a stage and we are all actors playing roles.

  • "Fake it 'til you make it" means pretending to be something you're not until you become it, or pretending to do work until real work emerges.

  • Creativity involves a kind of theater where the stage is your workspace, the costume is what you wear, the props are your tools, and the script is time.

  • No one is born with a unique style or voice. We start by imitating our heroes and idols. Copy, copy, copy, then make it your own.

  • First, figure out who to copy. Copy your heroes and influences. Then figure out what to copy - don't just copy style, copy their way of thinking. Internalize their perspective.

  • Eventually, move from imitation to emulation. Emulation is when you break through imitation into your work. Your failure to perfectly copy is where your uniqueness emerges.

  • Write and create what you would want to experience as an audience member. Make the kind of art you wish you could see.

  • Fan fiction and reimagining existing works is a good way to start. Take sequels, prequels or spinoffs of your favorite works into your own hands.

  • Use your hands and physical tools. Don't lose touch with physically making things, not just digital creations. Making physical work can lead to new ideas in a way that laptops do not.

In summary, the key principles are: fake it 'til you make it; imitate then emulate; write/create what you wish existed; build on existing works; and use your hands. With practice, you can develop your authentic style and voice.

  • Knowledge work on computers can feel abstract and alienating because it separates us from the physical world. We need to engage our bodies in our work.

  • Watching someone work at a computer, they seem immobile and detached. Sitting at computers all day is unhealthy. We need movement and to feel like we're making something physical, not just mental.

  • Work that only comes from our minds is not enough. We need to engage our physical senses and bodies. Great musicians and leaders engage their bodies.

  • The phrase "going through the motions" means if we start engaging our bodies, it can activate our minds. The author's creative work improved when incorporating analog/physical tools.

  • Computers are good for editing and publishing work but not for generating ideas. They make us perfectionists and we start editing before ideating. Analog workspaces with no electronics help generate ideas. The author has an analog and digital desk and moves between them.

  • Side projects, play, and procrastination often lead to your best work. Having multiple projects allows productive procrastination by moving between them.

  • Boredom and aimless wandering stimulate creativity. Avoiding work helps focus the mind.

  • Don't discard your passions. Let them interact, which leads to new connections and inspiration. The author's songwriting and writing feed into each other. Hobbies provide creative renewal without pressure.

  • Obscurity allows creative freedom without distraction or expectations. Use obscurity to experiment and improve your work. "Getting discovered" comes from creating good work and sharing it with others, which are challenging and take time. There's no formula for becoming known beyond doing good work and sharing it.

Make stuff every day. You're going to suck at first, but get better with practice. Share your work with others on the Internet.

Wonder about new things and share your passions. Reveal your secrets - people will appreciate it. Learn from examples like Bob Ross and Martha Stewart, who shared their knowledge and process with others.

Build an online presence. Start a website or blog and use social media. Connect with like-minded people. Share bits and pieces of your work and process. Having an online presence inspires you to keep creating new content.

Learn technical skills like coding and building websites. Find your community on the Internet. You don't have to live in a cultural hub to connect with others.

Create your world. Surround yourself with inspiration and work in solitude. Leave home at some point to gain new perspectives. Travel expands your mind.

Consider geography and place important to your work. A poor climate leads to more time indoors working. Live around interesting, diverse people. Eat good food. Continuously expose yourself to new places. Your online peers remain connected regardless of location.

Be kind and say nice things about others. Only associate with people you can learn from. Follow talented people doing interesting work. Learn from people smarter and more talented than you. If you're the most talented person in the room, find another room.

Anger can be a creative motivator, but don't waste time arguing online. Focus on making new work instead.

The key points are:

•Use your anger and frustration to fuel your creative work instead of complaining. Channel that energy into something productive.

•Public praise and fan letters are better than private ones. Share your appreciation for someone's work publicly instead of writing them a private fan letter. That way there's no pressure or expectation of a response. And you can create something new inspired by their work.

•Don't seek validation from others. Do your work for its own sake, not for approval or affirmation. Your work may be ahead of its time or it might be misunderstood. Get used to that.

•Have a regular and orderly life so you can be original and passionate in your work. Take care of yourself and your daily routine so you have the energy to be creative.

•Learn about money and be financially responsible. Budget, spend less than you make, and save money. Financial security gives you more freedom.

•Get a day job to fund your creative work until you can make a living from it. A day job provides money, connection to others, and routine. Use it to learn skills you can apply to your creative work. Stick to a routine and schedule time for your art, no matter what.

•Progress happens through small, consistent actions over time. Use a calendar to break big goals into daily milestones and stick to them. Don't break the chain.

•Keep a logbook to record your daily activities and milestones. It provides context and helps you remember details years later. Focus on recording the good parts of your day.

•Choose your life partner and close relationships wisely. Look for people who will support your creative obsessions and pursuits. The people you surround yourself with matter.

  • The passage discusses the importance of constraints and limitations in creative work. It argues that limitless possibilities and lack of constraints can be paralyzing and block creativity.

  • It gives several examples of creative works produced under tight constraints:

— Dr. Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham using only 50 words.

— Jack White's quote that "Telling yourself you have all the time in the world, all the money in the world, all the colors in the palette, anything you want—that just kills creativity."

— The artist Saul Steinberg's saying "What we respond to in any work of art is the artist’s struggle against his or her limitations."

  • The passage recommends embracing your constraints and limitations and "keeping moving." It says that creativity comes not just from what you put in but from what you leave out.

  • It concludes by recommending ways to get started with creative work, a list of recommended books, a disclaimer that advice is subjective, and deleted scenes from early drafts of the book.

  • The overall message is that limitations, constraints, and leaving things out can spur creativity. Having endless time, resources, and options can be paralyzing. Successful creative work often emerges from struggling within constraints.


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