This book grabs you right from the get-go: its format is square, its cover is black, white and red and its cover typography is distinctively hand-drawn. Steal like an artist? Is that really permissible?
Flip through the book and the engagement deepens. Provocative quotations jump out at you, handwritten chapter titles span left and right pages and whimsical illustrations appear throughout.
The book’s title is also the title of the first chapter and the author, Austin Kleon, explains what he means by stealing by using a genetic analogy: “You’re a remix of your Mom and Dad and all of your ancestors.”
There’s also a “geneology of ideas” he elaborates and he goes on to say that “[y]ou are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.”
So the goal is not simply to replicate, but to assimilate your influences, the books and music and movies that inspire you, and then create something new.
In Chapter 2, Kleon includes a handy chart distinguishing good theft from bad theft.
The book’s subtitle is “10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative” and while the ideas might seem familiar, the author expresses them with such verve that it’s worth the price of admission. This book is like receiving a wonderful handwritten note from a friend.
As a UX designer, I was struck by Chapter 4, Use Your Hands. When you spend your day at a screen, it’s good to be reminded that reviving your creative life force can come from the tactile experiences of everyday life.
I was also wowed by a quote in Chapter 8. In the words of Andre Torrez: “Complain about the way other people make software by making software.” What a powerful spur to get off your ass and make something!
Pick up this book and you’ll certainly discover your own epiphanies. It’s a must-have on the bookshelf of anyone who wants to be more creative.
Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon
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