Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Steal Like An Artist - “Be boring”

Steal Like An Artist - “Be boring” (Photo credit: Austin Kleon)

One thing I tell my improv class players over and over is to steal from each other. OK, I use that word to get their attention a bit because ‘isn’t stealing bad?’ Of course, what I am really getting at is to listen to each other and, as a in a conversation, talk about the same thing. If they are not stealing, then everyone is talking about something different – and what kind of a conversation (even in music) is that? Novices often have too many ideas; what usually works best is to focus on one or two strong ideas and develop them.

A wider use of the same thing is to steal (i.e. learn) from everyone, every style of music. Any creator of anything needs to continually be learning about all kinds of things – this is the compost from which musical piece and ideas are born. You never know when some aspect of that country & western song you listen to last week is going to hook up with a bit of calypso with a soupçon of Rachmaninoff and maybe some zydeco. It’s all good, it’s all grist.

Anyway, about the title of this post: it’s the title of a new book by Austin Kleon, an artist with whom I previously had some acquaintance through his previous book, Newspaper Blackout, where he cleverly creates poems by take an ordinary page of newsprint and blacking out most of it – the poem is formed from what’s left.

I haven’t ordered his Steal Like an Artist book yet, but I will. I know what he means. Here is the Table of Contents from the book:

1. Steal like an artist.

2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to make things.

3. Write the book you want to read.

4. Use your hands.

5. Side projects and hobbies are important.

6. The secret: Do good work, then put it where people can see it.

7. Geography is no longer our master.

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

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

10. Creativity is subtraction.



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