I knew when I started this whole crazy 30 Creative Adventures project that one type of adventure I wanted to include was reading books. I love reading and as much as I like reading blogs and such, there’s something about a book that has the power to make me think in a different way.
Since this whole year long project is all about expanding my creativity, it seemed only fitting to kick off my first book-tastic creative adventure with a book described as a “guide to creativity in the digital age,” Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon.
If you haven’t heard of Austin Kleon before, he’s an artist and writer from Austin, TX who uses a sharpie to black out bits of newspapers to create poems/art that look like this:
His book, Steal Like An Artist, started as a talk he gave at a community college that included a list of 10 things he’d wished he’d heard when he was first starting out. A list that looked like this:
I have to say I LOVED this book. Yes loved, in all caps.
What I loved most about this book was not only was it fully of inspiring thoughts on creativity but the design of the book itself, from the awesome handwritten notes to the fun doodles was totally inspiring as well.
I’m not going to get into all the juicy details of the book because we’d be here all day (and well, you should really check it out for yourself because it’s awesome) but I did want to share two of the takeaways that really resonated with me as a digital artist & designer.
1) Nothing is truly original
That’s right, that crazy brilliant idea you had? Probably been done before. But that’s ok! Because the reality is no idea is truly original and great artists know that. As Kleon points out in his book:
“A good artist understands that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original. Some people find this idea depressing, but it fills me with hope. If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.”
Can we say liberating?
I don’t know about you, but there have been many times as both a digital scrapbooker and designer where I’ve felt the pressure to come up with a truly unique idea. So much so that at times I wouldn’t even allow myself to browse digital galleries out of fear I might see an idea I loved and feel I couldn’t use it because someone else already had.
Which is exactly why I find this idea of embracing influence so liberating.
For the record, I’m not in the least bit talking about digital piracy or attempting to pass someone else’s work off as your own. That’s a whole different story. Give credit where credit is due. But as this graphic from the book points out, there’s a difference between good theft and bad theft:
Good theft is what great artists do. They take existing ideas and inspiration from their idols and transform those influences into a style that is unique to them by adding their own sparkle and twist. Then in turn, others take their idea, add their own special spin to it and the cycle of creativity and evolution continues.
2) Collect Good Ideas
In this high-speed, high-tech digital world we live in, we are constantly being bombarded by information and inspiring content on a daily basis and well, it can get overwhelming! So if we consider that all of our most creative work is the sum of our influences then we need to be choosy about what inspiration we let into our creativity.
Kleon points out, “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.”
Or to put it another way, keep the ideas most worth stealing.
Even Steve Jobs (with the help of Pablo Picasso) knew this to be true…
This is exactly why I started this creative adventures project. Because I felt my circle of creative influence had grown a bit small and I wanted to push myself to seek out a wider variety of inspiration. So I loved that this point was made in the book.
In a lot of ways, as a creative artist, you need to think of yourself as curator of the digital world. You’re looking for the absolute best tidbits of inspiration that you LOVE to be inspired by. Be choosy about what you let into your world. I do this all the time with Pinterest. I’ll go through periods where I’ll pin and pin and pin and then I’ll go back later and delete the pins I don’t truly love, leaving me with just the best, most inspiring content to pull from later.
3) Make Things, Know Thyself
I’ve always believed the key to finding your own personal design style is by playing. Making stuff, pushing your creative side outside your comfort zone and taking bits and pieces of inspiration from of your idols while adding your own personal twist.
This idea of finding your style has been on my mind lately so I absolutely loved reading the way Kleon broke down stealing style from your heroes:
“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.”
Steal the thinking behind the style so you can learn to see like your heroes.
As I said before, I really loved this book. Not only was it a quick read (you could easily read it in an afternoon!) but it was also inspired me to think a bit differently about what it means to be creative. As I mentioned before, I really only touched on a few points of the book so if this post has peeked your interest, I highly recommend you check out the book for yourself!
As always, I receive no perks for promoting this book. I’m just a happy reader sharing my love. If you want to check out Steal Like An Artist or any of Austin Kleon’s work, you can find his website here. All photos are courtesy of steallikeanartist.com.
ABOUT THIS PROJECT
In honor of my 30th birthday, I’m challenging myself to go on 30 creative adventures before I turn 31 on 05.24.2013. This is Creative Adventure 2 of 30. You can read all the details behind this project here and find links to all my completed adventures here.