Forgive me for being a little late posting this week. I have an excuse- I was having a great lunch with some school friends and getting a sunburn. Sunburns are such sneaky jerks. They start out so innocently. “Hm…I I got a little pink.” A few hours later I don’t need to turn the lights on because of the bright red glow emanating from my skin. You know it’s bad when even putting on aloe vera hurts. Sunburn aside, it was great to hangout with new friends and shake up my daily routine.
This week, I’ve got a new book review! Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon. If The War of Art is like a swift kick in the ass from your grandpa, then Steal Like An Artist is like a gentle shove from your cool hipster friend. In addition to the wonderful advice that fills every page. The book is sprinkled with photos, great hand-drawn fonts and illustrations, and fantastic quotes (that are all going in my quote file).
Stealing like an artist doesn’t mean dishonesty. I’ll let the author explain it in his own words:
We learn by copying. We’re talking about practice here, not plagiarism- plagiarism is trying to pass someone else’s work off as your own. Copying is about reverse-engineering. It’s like a mechanic taking apart a car to see how it works. The reason to copy your heroes and their style is so that you might somehow get a glimpse into their minds. That’s what you really want- to internalize their way of looking at the world. If you just mimic the surface of somebody’s work without understanding where they are coming from, your work will never anything more then a knockoff. (emphasis mine-BB)
The point is- trying to copy something perfectly never works. No matter what, we are going to bring our experiences, our vision, our voice to whatever we are creating. Remember I mentioned those great quotes that pepper the book? Here are a couple of great ones that speak about emulating your heroes:
“We want you to take from us. We want you, at first, to steal from us, because you can’t steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice and that’s how you will find your voice. And that’s how you begin. And then one day someone will steal from you.” – Francis Ford Coppola
“It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.” – Conan O’Brien
I loved the loose, conversational tone of this book. There is a part about letting yourself be bored or do mundane tasks as a way to empty your head to make room for ideas. I always get my best creative ideas driving to and from school. Thinking about it now, maybe that isn’t a good thing, but it does explain my lack of driving skills (every time someone starts a story with, “The other day I was driving….” my stomach drops because I’m afraid the next words are going to be, “and you almost rammed me!”).
Out of everything, this is my favorite bit of advice in Steal Like An Artist:
The manifesto is this: Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use- do the work you want to see done.
Every writer, comedian, artist, and creator of anything always says the same thing, “I figured if I liked it, other people probably would like it, too.” That seems so obvious, but it’s not. Too often we try to create what we think other people will like instead of what we like. When the mortgage and the phone bill are due, there’s an even greater temptation to create something solely for other people or recreate past successful works. But, in my opinion, when we create from a place of honesty and authenticity that reveals even a small about of ourselves, that is what reaches other people and speaks for us on an emotional level- no matter what the medium.
I really could write on and on about this book, but it’s short and I’d end up writing the whole book out. It didn’t make quite the impression on me that War of Art did, but that’s only because of the more conversational tone (perceiving people as yelling always makes more of an impression on me) and it didn’t have the personal stories to give it a similar depth of experience. But it’s still a great little book that is well-worth it’s price.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to wrap myself in ice in a dark room until this burn dies down. Have a fantastic week!