Unlock Your Creativity

I was reading the $subject and thought of jotting down some notes from the book for my own reference later as well as for anyone who wants to “steal” some of these things about being creative.

Here are the 10 things in the book:

#1 Steal like an artist

  • Where do you get your ideas? I steal them.
  • Nothing is original — you built up from existing ideas.
  • “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”
  • The genealogy of ideas: every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas.
  • Garbage in, garbage out: Hoarders collect indiscriminately, artists collect selectively.
  • You income: roughly the average of the income of 5 closest friends; your idea income has a similar bearing.
  • Go deeper than everybody else — that’s how you’ll get ahead.
  • Always be reading.
  • Jot down your thoughts and observations.

#2 Do’t wait until you know who you are to get started

  • The act of making things will help figure out who you are. Don’t try to figure yourself and then make — you won’t make anything.
  • The fear of getting started — that’s natural — you just need to ignore it and just do it.
  • Fake it ’til you make it — pretend to be making something until you actually make something.
  • We are not born knowing who we are.
  • At the beginning, we pretend to be our heroes and learn by copying.
  • Copying is not plagiarism (trying to pass someone else’s work as your own) — Copying is about reverse-engineering.
  • “Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.”
  • Who to copy, what to copy.
  • If you copy from one author, it’s plagiarism, but if you copy from many, it’s research — Wilson Mizner
  • Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style.
  • Try to get a glimpse of the mind of your hero — internalize the way of looking at the world.
  • Imitation is copying. Emulation is when imagination goes one step further, breaking through into your own thing.

#3 Write the book you want to read

  • Don’t write what you know, write what you like

#4 Use your hands

  • Work that only comes from the head isn’t any good.
  • Find a way to bring your body into your work.
  • Engage most of your senses.
  • Follow an analog-to-digital loop.

#5 Side projects and hobbies are important

  • The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life — Jessica Hische
  • It’s the side projects that really take off.
  • It is good to have a lot of projects going at once so you can bounce between them [Hmm, this seems counter intuitive to some extent — when you have multiple to juggle between, you may end up doing any right.]
  • Practice productive procrastination.
  • Get bored to get new ideas [This is something I learned from my kid recently as well.]
  • “When I get busy, I get stupid”
  • You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards — Steve Jobs
  • Don’t throw any of yourself away — if you are passionate about multiple things, keep them all.
  • Music can help feed into your work.

#6 The secret: do good work and share it with people

  • When you are unknown, there is nothing to distract you from getting better.
  • Enjoy your obscurity while it lasts. Use it.
  • There is no secret formula for becoming known: do good work and share it with people.
  • Do good work: no easy way; make stuff everyday; you will get better as you do it everyday.
  • Share it with people: easy; put your stuff on the Internet.
  • You should wonder at the things nobody else is wondering about.

#7 Geography is no longer our master

  • Like minded people do not have to be at one place — Internet helps to connect geographically dispersed people.
  • It is not to say that place is not important.
  • Your brain gets comfortable in your everyday surroundings. You need to make it uncomfortable.
  • It helps to live around interesting people, and not necessarily people who do what you do.

#8 Be nice (The world is a small town)

  • Make friends, ignore enemies.
  • You are 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.
  • Quit picking fights and go make something.
  • Use public fan letters: The Internet is really good for this.
  • Keep a praise file — record all the praises you get — when you are down, reading this will help pick yourself up.

#9 Be boring (It’s the only way to get work done)

  • Take care of yourself.
  • Stay out of debt.
  • “It is not the money you make, it’s the money you hold on to.”
  • The art of holding on to money is all about saying no to consumer culture.
  • Keep your day job, until you can live off doing what you truly love.
  • Establish a routine.
  • Parkinson’s Law: Work gets done in the time available.
  • Get yourself a calendar. Fill the boxes. Don’t break the chain.
  • Keep a logbook.

#10 Creativity is subtraction

  • Choose what to leave out.
  • Don’t make excuses for not working — make things with the time, space, and material you have, right now.


Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Like what you read? Give Nabeel Yoosuf a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.