My Ground Truth

Psychologist | Military-Grade Mindfulness Trainer & Coach | Carsten J. Grimm

Steal Like an Artist: 10 things nobody told you about being creative

Austin Kleon 

This is an awesome book for shaking out the inner creative in you. It addresses many areas that you may not even be aware of that are holding you back from getting moving and making stuff. For me some of the central ideas have allowed me to relax a little bit about my creative work, acknowledge it’s going to be derivative based on what I like, yet with my own flavour added, and therefore will be my own voice at the end of the day and that’s totally legit. Kleon has a nice way of breaking up his key points into ten ‘chapters’ interspersed with his own art and writing. It’s a beautiful book to look at, and its a nice short read that made me get the highlighter out to underscore along the way. 

The central premise is to “steal” ideas, but what Kleon is really saying is that it’s not possible to not be influenced but what you like and what you engage with out in the world. I like his treatment of your genealogy of ideas, in the same way that you are a “mashup” of your parents, your creative work is a remix of the things you are drawn to and want to be like. He encourages us to map out our creativity family tree - the makers who have influenced our style and orientation. I feel like we tend to see this in the music industry quite visibly, people will articulate their influences. I remember learning that one of our home grown darlings in New Zealand, Crowded House, and the Finn brothers in particular, were an early musical influence on Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder, one of my teenage obsessions, and I nearly lost my shit. The reality is, we get influenced all the time. Embrace it. Stew in it. Notice what you like, combine that with other stuff you like, let it percolate away in your subconscious while you dilly dally on all the other things you like to do, and then boom drop it into your own work. Your own style will follow. It can’t not.   

Another thing that really worked for me was Kleon’s encouragement to just let all your interests and seemingly unrelated projects be as they are - a seemingly unrelated tangle of disparate personality quirks. I love that. Especially as someone who used to fly military helicopters who became a psychologist who loves to read and write things. Kleon has a really soothing tone to this book which he must recognise is maybe an underlying trait of the creative archetype, universal to the whole tribe of makers, that we secretly suspect we’re kind of fucking it up by not hitting home runs and producing cohesive, tight, easily marketable bodies of output all the time. His message is calming and a lovely gift to the creative world; just do you bro, do what you’re good at and what you love to do. In there and in time you’ll find your way. And it’ll feel uncohesive, and probably like you’re living a “double-life” for quite a while. Cool. You’re in really good company.   

Thanks Austin Kleon.