Book Review: Austin Kleon, “Steal Like an Artist”

I’ve been in a creative funk lately. Every time I sit down to write, nothing comes to mind or I have to forcefully pry my ideas to the surface. This current creative situation is what led me to pick up Austin Kleon’s book, Steal Like an Artist. I’ve been following Kleon on Twitter for a while and he’s never short of inspiration, whether it’s through his tweets or links to his blog. However, it’s this little book of his that has really changed the way I think about the creative process.

Through ten chapters filled with advice, quotes, humor, and art, Kleon teaches readers how to steal like an artist. But, what does that mean? Not plagiarism, if that’s what you were thinking. Instead, this sort of theft is the groundwork for your own projects. Essentially, as Kleon puts it, “Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas.” He urges readers to save what inspires them and to study their influences. Creating a space full of ideas and researching the roots of those ideas will eventually lead to something new, or a twist on what already exists. Suddenly, my own habit of saving quotes and going on research “kicks” doesn’t make me feel so odd.

What I also appreciate about Kleon’s book is that it serves as a nudge in the right direction. He is the small voice telling readers to pursue their passions despite any doubt and uncertainty that might be standing in the way. I appreciate that he says to hold on to all passions, rather than discarding them along the way. Some may get more attention than others, but that doesn’t mean they are completely forgotten. This doesn’t mean quit your day job, but it means having options that keep your creative wheels turning.

Overall, I’d recommend this book to anyone who needs a breath of fresh air. Life can get dull, but with a little buffing, can regain its shine. Steal Like an Artist is the buffing agent I’ve been looking for. Not only has it changed how I think about my own creative process, but it has given me new way to harness my creativity. It has also given me tips on what changes, or additions, need to be implemented into my routine for a better outcome. Though a short read, Kleon doesn’t need much to make a positive and lasting impact.

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