Steal Like An Artist
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I never used to read. I hated it, found it boring. In 2021 I realised that every smart people I know read books, so I made it my mission to get better at it. Now I can’t get enough of reading, and I want to share my journey with you.
I’ve just finished reading “Steal Like An Artist” by Austin Kleon and it’s inspired me. I bought the Austin Kleon trilogy a few months ago when I was really getting into books but they’ve just sat on the shelf for the past few months. I didn’t see them as proper books (they are square and like 100 pages long) but I liked the idea of having them after seeing them in many of Ali Abdaal’s thumbnails. However, after a productive week I wanted to spend my Saturday evening chilling out, so I picked it up to see what the fuss was about
For the next hour, I didn’t put it down.
It’s short, so you can read it in about an hour or less, but the lessons it contained completely resonated with me. I’ve been in a good place this week with work. I’ve been productive with my podcast, growing my following on twitter and creating my first info product. I decided I wanted to take action. This book gave me the encouragement that I was doing the right thing.
It’s split into 10 chapters:
1. Steal like an artist - the concept that no idea is original, but don’t just copy. Research, go deep, learn how your heroes think. Use it as inspiration.
2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started - just start making stuff. Quit waiting to figure out what you’re good at. Show up every day and create.
3. Write the book you want to read - more about the premise of not copying, but evolving. Make something your own by copying and then adapting. Instead of writing what you know, write what you like.
4. Use your hands - we stare at screens a lot. Do things with your hands to spark creativity. Write on paper, cut things, craft. Have a separate workspace if you can.
5. Side projects and hobbies are important - hell yeah they are. Embrace productive procrastination. Exploring things. Go from project to project, let your creativity free.
6. Do good work and share it with people - get good at something by showing up every day, share your learnings online.
7. Geography is no longer our master - we live with communities online. Take this opportunity to explore different places and cultures. Solitary and isolation is good. Creative thoughts get flowing.
8. Be nice (the world is a small town) - easy to get caught up in negativity, so avoid it, be kind to people. Give value without expecting anything in return.
9. Be boring (it’s the only way to get work done) - take care of your energy, don’t go into debt, keep your day job, have a log book.
10. Creativity is subtraction - it’s important to leave stuff out. You don’t need to wait until “I have x or y”. Constraints lead to creativity.
What resonated with me most
My favourite chapter was “use your hands”. As someone who suffered during lockdown with my amount of screen time, I needed to make a change. I found great joy in leaving my screens in the dust and starting a handmade leather wallet business. Making something physical with my hands is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Having someone buy and use that wallet is a feeling I can’t explain.
Not only this, but try to get away from screens as much as you can purely because of how much time in front of them. The world outside is beautiful, we crave human connection, we can’t do that in front of a screen.
I liked the idea of keeping a swipe file. I’m always finding useful and inspirational stuff throughout my journey on the internet and IRL. I never stop to capture it so I can use it later.
A common theme throughout the book was showing up every day and publishing your work online. This is exactly why I’m writing this blog. I love writing and I love sharing my thoughts with people, I’m not sure why I don’t do it more. Going through this process will help me discover what I enjoy writing about and what people enjoy reading.
Another small thing, towards the end of the book, I was struck by Austin’s “log book” example. He mentioned earlier about taking a notebook around with you everywhere and taking notes. I don’t love doing this because I like taking notes into my phone. But his log book was pretty cool. It was noting down 4-5 things that had happened that day with a few doodles. I did it straight after and had a blast spending two minutes on it. I think I’ll do it every day.
A few months ago I bought this little Leuctrumm 1917 notebook. I put a little sticker on it and named it “book of dreams”. I’ve tried to shoehorn different use cases for my book of dreams but fail after the first day of trying something new. Will I stick with my log book? We’ll see.
I enjoyed spending my hour with this book and it sparked me into instant action, what more could you ask? The design style was pleasantly different and being able to breeze through in an hour was immensely satisfying. I’ve got Show Your Work and Keep Going on my shelf to read next which I may well delve into tomorrow.
Bravo, Austin Kleon. I’ve stolen like an artist (the concepts from your book), I’ve shown my work (this blog) and I’m going to keep going!