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Steal like an artist summary: 10 things nobody told you about being creative

An artist might steal from another artist– it’s the thing who steals well,
who became a great artist. Austin Kleon’s book steals like …
Being an artist is a great way to open up your inner creativity
start putting out to the world with 10 things nobody told you about being creative.
Start stealing…

About the author

Austin Kleon is the New York Times bestselling author of a trilogy of illustrated books about creativity in the digital age: Steal Like An ArtistShow Your Work!, and Keep Going. He’s also the author of Newspaper Blackout, a collection of poems made by redacting the newspaper with a permanent marker.

His books have been translated into dozens of languages and have sold over a million copies worldwide. He’s been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, PBS Newshour, and in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal

In their previous lives, he worked as a librarian, a web designer, and an advertising copywriter.

steal like an artist summary

Buy the book: Steal like an artist

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Chapter 1: Steal Like An Artist

“Art is theft” 

–Pablo Picasso
  • The honest answer to the question “Where do you get your ideas?” is “I steal them”.
  • figure out what’s worth stealing then steal there’s worth stealing.
  • Stop worrying about what’s good or bad–there is only stuffs that worth steal and not worth stealing.

Nothing is original

  • As write Jonathan Lethem said “When people call something “original”, nine out of ten times they just don’t know the references or the original source involved.”
  • Nothing is completely original.
  • As the bible says “There is nothing new under the sun”.
  • All creative work came from what came before.
  • As Andre Gide writes “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”

“What is originality? undetected plagiarism”

–William Ralph Inge

The Genealogy of ideas

  • Every new idea is just a mixing of one or more ideas.
  • Like you are a remix of your mom and dad and all your ancestors–you are the sum of all your influence.
  • The German writer Goethe said,”We are shaped and fashioned by what we love”.

“We were kids without fathers . . . so we found our fathers on wax and on the streets and in history. We got to pick and choose the ancestors who would inspire the world we were going to make for ourselves.”      


Garbage in, garbage out.

  • Hoarders collect indiscriminately, artists collect selectively. They only collect things that they really love.
  • There’s is an economic theory out there is — if your average income of your five closest friends and an average of those is close to your own income.
  • Your job is to collect good ideas.
  • The more good ideas you collect the more you can choose from to be influenced by.

“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.”

—Jim Jarmusch

Climb your own family tree.

” I don’t believe in art I believe in artists.”  

–Marcel Duchamp
  • Study everything the thinker you really love, then study about them the thinker loved and continue the tree.
  • Once you build the tree, its starts your own branch.
  • You can learn whatever you want from them.

School yourself

  • School is one thing and education is another.
  • Google everything.
  • Always be reading, collect books even if you don’t plan on reading them right away.
  • Filmmaker John Waters has said, “Nothing is more important than an unread library.”

Save your thefts for later

  • Carry a notebook and a pen with you.
  • Keep a swipe file — a file to track the stuff you love or want to steal.
  • Artist David Hockney had all the inside pockets of his suit jackets tailored to fit a sketchbook.
  • The musician Arthur Russell liked to wear shirts with two front pockets so he could fill them with scraps of score sheets.
“It is better to take what does not belong to you than to let it lie around neglected.” —Mark Twain

Chapter:2 Don’t you know are to get wait until who you started.

  • you are ready, start making stuff.
  • Fake it until you make it.
  • Creative work is like a theater. The stage is your desk, the props are your materials and the script is time.

Fake it ’til you make it.

Start copying.

  • We dont came out of the womb knowing who we are.
  • Copying is all about reverse engineering.
“Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find yourself.” —Yohji Yamamoto
  • Beatles start as a cover band.
  • McCartney has said, “I emulated Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis. We all did.”
  • As Salvador Dalí said, “Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.”
  • You copy your heroes.
  • he writer Wilson Mizner said, “if you copy from one author, it’s plagiarism, but if you copy from many, it’s research”.
  • cartoonist Gary Panter say, “If you have one person you’re influenced by, everyone will say you’re the next whoever. But if you rip off a hundred people, everyone will say you’re so original!”

Imitation is not flattery

  • Imitation is about copying,  and Emulation is breaking into your own thing.
  • Kobe Bryant imitated from their heroes by watching their tapes and emulated their own move.
  • Johnny Carson tried to be Jack Benny but ended up Johnny Carson. David Letterman tried to copy Johnny Carson but ended up David Letterman. And Conan O’Brien tried to be David Letterman but ended up Conan O’Brien.

Chapter:3 Write you want the  book to read

Write what you know like.

“My interest in making music has been to create something that does not exist that I would like to listen to. I wanted to hear music that had not yet happened, by putting together things that suggested a new thing which did not yet exist.” —Brian Eno
  • Write about what you like — any movie sequel, artwork, about a book.

Also read: 7 Simple Steps To Achieve Any Goals In Your Life

Chapter:4 Use your hand

“We don’t know where we get our ideas from. What we do know is that we do not get them from our laptops.” —John Cleese

Step away from the screen

  • Step away from your computers and start using your hands.
  • “You never really get to touch anything that you’re doing unless you print it out,” Donwood says.
  • The computer is good for editing and publishing your ideas not generating your ideas.
  • The cartoonist Tom Gauld says he stays away from the computer until he’s done most of the thinking for his strips, because once the computer is involved, “things are on an inevitable path to being finished. Whereas in my sketchbook the possibilities are endless.”
  • Set up to work station, one is analog and another one is digital.
  • Generate ideas on analog desk and edit and publish on digital.

Chapter:5 Side projects and hobbies are important.

“The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.” —Jessica Hische

Practice productive procrastination

  • Have lots of projects and bounce around with them when you are sick of one.
  • Creative people need time to just sit and do nothing.
  • Wash dishes, take long walks.
  • As the artist Maira Kalman says, “Avoiding work is the way to focus my mind.”

Don’t throw any of yourself away

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward.”

—Steve Jobs
  • keep all your passion in your life.
  • Its so important to have hobbies.

Also read: 10 Simple tips for start reading books

Chapter:6 Do good work and share with your people

In the beginning, obscurity is good.

  • How do you get discovered? – – start sharing your works online.
  • When you are unknown,
    • Do what you want.
    • experiment
    • not public image to manage.
    • No distraction
  • Enjoy your obscurity.

The Not-so-secret formula

  • Put your stuffs on internet.
  • Internet can be finished line of your unfinished idea.
  • Figur out the internet work and master it.
  • Find people who love the same thing you love and share with them.
  • Dont share everything, share a little.

Chapter 7: Geography is no longer our master

  • Create your own world.
  • surround yourself with books and objects you love.
  • Where we choose to live still has a huge impact on the work we do.
  • leave home when it needed and come back.
  • Your brain gets comfortable in your everyday surrounding.

Also read: Eat that frog Book Summary

Chapter 8: Be nice

  • Make Friends, ignore enemies.
  • Stand next to the talent.
  • Surround with the people who are way smatter and better than you.

“Find the most talented person in the room, and if it’s not you, go stand next to him. Hang out with him. Try to be helpful.” –Harold Ramis (Actor and director)If you ever find that you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.

“Complain about the way other people make software by making software.”

—Andre Torrez

Write Fan letters

  • If you love somebody’s work, response to it.
  • “Modern art = I could do that + Yeah, but you didn’t.” —Craig Damrauer

Chapter 9: Be boring (Its the only way to get work done)

  • Take care of yourself.
  • It takes lots of energy to be creative.

Stay out of debt

  • Learn about money as soon as you can.

Keep your day job

  • A day job gives you money and a routine — until you make it, what you love.
  • stick to the routine and do the work every day, no matter what.

Get yourself a calendar

  • The comedian Jerry Seinfeld has a calendar method that helps him stick to his daily joke writing.
  • Seinfeld says. “Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

Get a calendar. Fill the boxes. Don’t break the chain.

Keep a logbook

  • A logbook is a little book which you list of things you do every day.

Marry well

  • Marry well is’t mean only your life partner — it also mean who you business with, friend or you chose around.

Chapter 10: Creativity is subtraction

  • Concentract what important to you.
  • Dr. Seuss wrote The Cat in the Hat with only 236 different words, so his editor bet him he couldn’t write a book with only 50 different words. Dr. Seuss came back and won the bet with Green Eggs and Ham, one of the bestselling children’s books of all time.

Telling yourself you have all the time in the world, all the money in the world, all the colors in the palette, anything you want—that just kills creativity.” —Jack White

creativity isn’t just the things we choose to put in, it’s the things we choose to leave out.

steal like an artist summary

Buy the book: Steal like an artist

Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links you might be click are affiliate links. when you purchase something, we will get a commission on that click and that helps and motivate us to create more content.

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