Stealing Creative Inspiration from Austin Kleon

KleonI don’t know about you, but I own way too many books on writing and creativity. And what have most of them done for me other than distract me from actually writing and creating?

Still, every now and then a total gem comes along. Like Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative.

Could this cool, six-inch-square graphic delight be any cuter? Talk about “the medium is the message”: every element of the book’s design embodies Austin’s hands-on ethos. You wouldn’t think black and white could be reinvented, but these pages, with their hand-drawn print, photos and doodles, feel fresh and new.

And there’s great content too, including some of the most solidly usable advice for living a creative life I’ve found. Here’s what sets this book apart from other books on creativity, at least for me: it kicks me into action.

You don’t have to consider yourself an artist or writer to benefit from Steal Like an Artist. Austin wrote it for “anyone who’s trying to inject some creativity into their life and their work. (That should describe all of us.)”

Here are three of my favorite Kleon commandments:

1. Step away from the screen.

“You need to find a way to bring your body into the work,” writes Austin.

It wasn’t until I started bringing analog tools back into my process that making things became fun again and my work started to improve.

I got so excited when I read about his dual-desk work setup that I copied it: one desk for digital equipment and the other for analog. Austin allows nothing electronic on his analog desk, just tools for writing, doodling, drawing, making notes. This is where he germinates ideas and mucks around. Only when he’s ready to pull something together and publish it does he moves to his digital desk.

2. Build your own world.

This reminds me of Pema Chodron’s famous adage, “start where you are,” only Austin is telling us to “create where you are.” He lives in one of the country’s hippest cities, yet most of his peers don’t live there. “I know them from the Internet,” he says.

You don’t have to live anywhere other than the place you are to start connecting with the world you want to be in … Surround yourself with books and objects that you love. Tape things up on the wall. Create your own world.

Connect with great people online, put on some music, pay attention to what’s around you.

3. Start making stuff.

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

In my experience, it’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are. You’re ready. Start making stuff.

Fake it till you make it. Copy your heroes. Work it out by doing it.

Want More Austin Kleon?

Check out this talk he gave in May, buy his book, spend some time on his websites. He’s a busy guy. You better get started.

3 Responses to “Stealing Creative Inspiration from Austin Kleon”

  1. Rosanna

    I am guilty of owning more books on writing than I can read for many years. Kleon’s book sounds interesting. I also have two desks – one where I have the computer, and another where I have all my notebooks and pens. I didn’t realize I had a digital desk and an analog desk. Now I know. Cool. 🙂


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