Stealing is OK

When people think of creative work, what usually comes to mind is someone making something amazing that nobody has ever seen before. While that’s a neat idea, it couldn’t be further from reality. Creative work isn’t about making something nobody has ever seen before, it’s about stealing, or remixing, creatively. Now that I’ve completely blown your mind, let me introduce you to a book that explains this beautifully.

Steal Like An Artist” by Austin Kleon. This is one of my favorite books. Not only is it a super easy read, it’s full of great content. The ten main points Kleon hits on are these:

  1. Steal like an artist
  2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started
  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 and share it with people
  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

A book that encourages creative people to steal? Yes, you read that right. If you try to sit around and think up something that nobody else has ever done, first you’ll be sitting and thinking a very long time, and second, that just won’t happen. As Jim Jarmusch says “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.” This doesn’t mean you take everything you see and not give credit where credit is due, definitely do that. Remixing or stealing like an artist is much more than that.

One of the things that Kleon mentions in his book to copy people. Find people, artists that inspire you and copy them. “Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find yourself.” -Yoji Yamamoto. This doesn’t mean to plagiarize. “Copying is about reverse-engineering. It’s like a mechanic taking apart a car to see how it works.” –Austin Kleon. Nobody is born with a style, that’s where copying comes in. Learn to do the work and you will find your style. So find someone worth copying, see what of their work is worth copying, and copy like nobody’s business.

Being creative and learning what your own creative process is is difficult. Utilize the work of those around you and that have passed on before you then find out your own style. Consume as much art/media as you can and learn as much about it as you can. When you know about the craft, you can successfully remix it into your own style. But most of all, practice, practice, practice.