I just finished reading a very clever little book that I picked up at Foxtale Book Shoppe. It is called Steal Like an Artist and the author, Austin Kleon writes about something that every creative ultimately comes face to face with. Whether you are a writer, or a painter or a designer or…whatever, you are a thief. Yes, a robber. A burglar of ideas! There are very few original ideas in the world. Even those ideas that appear to be new, when you look at them really closely, are actually a repeat of something else. So if you are a creative sort and you plan to create the newest-bestest-most unusual-thingamajigger, get ready to be disappointed. Better to accept reality and arm yourself for the task: Stealing.
Necessary Tools of a Artist Thief
- Notebook and pen- Carry one with you always. Jot down ideas. Record conversations you hear. Doodle. Sketch. Design. Outline. Make lists. Create Mind Maps. The possibilities are endless but should fit your style and your creative bent. Always be ready to steal at a moment’s notice.
- A swipe file-This can either be a folder on your computer, a board on Pinterest or an actual paper file. Put all the inspirational articles, designs, photographs etc in that file. Keep it readily accessible. In the cloud. On the corner of your desk.
- Discerning eyes-You need to develop eyes that see the world in a different way. Every experience holds the possibility of a new work of art. The sunset may be your next painting or photograph. The conversation you overhear at the next table or the interaction with the clerk as you buy supplies for a camping trip may surface in a blog post or your next novel. Every experience is grist for the artistic mill. Shakespeare really did have it right when he said, “All the world is a stage and all the men and women merely players…”
What to Do with the Stolen Goods
- Give credit where it is due. If you are using someone’s exact idea or quoting someone word for word, always give them credit. We all know what plagiarism is and the penalty is serious.
- Make it your own. Rearrange objects. Put the conversation in a new context. Develop a caricature or exaggerate the character. Create a new order or a new perspective. Design the opposite.
- Ship It-Publish it. Paint it. Sculpt it. Design it. Print it. And finally share it!
If you’ve been using the excuse that you don’t have any original ideas or that someone else beat you to your newest project, guess what? Busted! Kleon’s little book gives us all permission to steal like an artist and get on with the real work of being creative. Now that you know the truth, you can get out in the world and rob with the best of us. Go for it!
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