Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon — Book Summary

10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Photo by Austin Kleon

Why read this book?

  • If you are stuck and want to work on a creative project or you don’t know how to start your journey of creating work, this book is for you.

What I found most important?

  • If you think about what you were or how you started being creative, You still will be sitting around figuring yourself out instead of making things.
  • Creative people don’t think they are making things from nowhere, they understand that every new idea is just a remix of someone’s work.

Summary & Notes

1. Steal Like an Artist

How to Look At The World(Like an Artist)
— Every artist gets asked the question,
>“Where do you get your ideas?”
— The honest artist answers,
> “I steal them.”

Nothing Is Original
> “What is originality? Undetected plagiarism.”- William Ralph Inge
— The good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. Creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.

The Genealogy of Ideas
— Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous works.

Garbage In, Garbage 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.
— Artist is a collector, not a hoarder, mind you, the difference: Hoards collect indiscriminately, and artist collect selectively. they only collect things that they really love.

Climb Your Own Family Tree
— There is a good method for studying art — if you try to devour the history of your discipline all at once, you will choke.
— instead, chew on one thinker — writer, artist, role model — you really love. study everything there is to know about that person. Then find three people that the thinker loved, and find out everything about them. Repeat this as many times as you can and build your tree.

School Yourself
> “whether I went to school or not, I would always study” -RZA
— Whether you’re in school or not, it’s always your job to get yourself an education.
— You have to be curious about the world in which you live. Look things up. chase down every reference. Go deeper than anybody else- That’s how you’ll get ahead.

Save Your Thefts For Later
> “ It is better to take what does not belong to you than to let it lie around neglected.”- Mark Twain
— Carry a notebook and pen with you wherever you go. Get used to pulling it out and jotting down your thoughts and observations. Copy your favorite passages out of books. Record overheard conversations. Doodle when you’re on the phone. See something worth stealing? Put it in the swipe file.

2. Don’t Wait Until You Know Who You Are to Get Started

Make Things. Know Thyself
— If He waited to know who he was or what he was before he started” being creative” well, he still be sitting around trying to figure self out instead of making things.
— It’s through the act of making things and doing work that we figure out who we are.
— You are ready. start making stuff.

Fake It Til You Make It
— Pretend to be making something until you actually make something. or Pretend to be something you’re until you are- fake it until you’re successful until everybody sees you the way you want them to.
> “You start out as phony and become real” — Glenn O’Brien

Start Copying
— Nobody is born with style or a voice. We don’t come of the womb knowing who we are. in the beginning we learn by pretending to be our heroes.We learn by copying
— Plagiarism is about passing someone’s work as your own and copying is about reverse engineering like a mechanic taking apart a car to see how it works.

Imitation Is Not Flattery
— At some point, you’ll have to move from imitating your heroes to emulating them. Imitation is about coping. Emulation is when imitation goes one step further, breaking through into your own thing.
— A wonderful thing about human beings is that we’re incapable of making perfect copies. Our failure to copy our heroes is where we discover where our own thing lives. that is how we evolve.

3. Write the Book You Want to Read

Write What You Like Not What You Know
— We make art because we like it. We’re drawn to certain kinds of work because we’re inspired by people doing that work.
— 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 product you want to use — do the work you want to see done.

4. Use Your Hands

Step Away From The Screen
> “We don’t know where we get our ideas from. What we do know is that we do not get them from our laptops” — John Cleese
— Work that only comes from the head isn’t any good.
— Have two parts of the office one which consists of analog and another which is digital. Once you start getting your ideas, then you can move over to your digital station and use the computer to help you execute and publish them.

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

Practice Productive Procrastination
— Creative people need time to just sit around and do nothing.
— As the artist, Maria Kalman says, “ Avoiding work is the way to focus my mind.”
— Take a time to mess around. Get lost. Wander. You never know where it’s going to lead you.

Don’t Throw Any of Yourself Away
— If you have two or three passions, don’t feel like you have to pick and choose between them. Don’t discard. Keep all your passions in your life.
> “ You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward” — Steve Jobs
— I Like to paint and write, Once you start your work you will notice how one thing helps in process of other.

6. The Secret: Do Good Work and Share It with People

In The Beginning, Obscurity Is Good
— In the real-world people are busy which is good thing because you want attention only after you’re doing really good work. there’s no pressure when you’re unknown. You can do what you want. Experiment. Do things just for the fun of it.
— You’ll never get this beginner freedom back again once people start paying you attention.

The Not-So-Secret Formula
— Do good work: Make stuff every day. Know you’re going to suck for a while. Fail. Get better.
— Share it with people: Put Your stuff on the internet.
— Step:1 Wonder about something
— Step:2 Invite others to wonder with you. You should wonder about things nobody else is wondering about.

7. Geography Is No Longer Our Master

Build Your Own World
— If you’re not into the world you live in, you can build your own world around you. surround yourself with books and objects that you love. Tape things up on the wall. Create your own world.

Leave Home
— Geography is no longer our master isn’t to say that place isn’t important. Where we choose to live still has a huge impact on the work we do.
— Your brain gets too comfortable in your everyday surroundings. You need to make it uncomfortable. You need to spend time in an unknown land.

8. Be Nice(The World Is a Small Town)

Make Friends, Ignore Enemies
— “ There’s only one rule I know of: You’ve got to be kind” — Kurt Vonnegut

Stand Next To The Talent
— Follow people who are doing the really interesting work. pay attention to what they’re talking about, what they’re doing,what they’re linking to.

Write Fan Letters
— Share your hero's work, Write a blog post about it. Maybe your hero will see your work, maybe not, the important thing is that you show your appreciation without expecting anything in return.

Validation Is For Parking
> “Modern art = I could do that + yeah, but you didn’t.” — Craig Damrauer
— You can’t go looking for validation from external sources.Once you put your work into the world, you have no control over the way people react to it.
— Not everybody will get it, So get comfortable with being misunderstood, and ignored.

Keep A Praise File
— Keep your good work memory file, When dark days come and need boost this file will live you up.

9. Be Boring(It’s the Only Way to Get Work Done)

Take Care Of Yourself
Stay Out Of Debt
Keep A Logbook

10. Creativity Is Subtraction

Choose What To Leave Out
— In age of information 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.

Recommended Reading

If you like Steal Like an Artist, you might also like: Show Your work by Austin Kleon



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store