Starting the New Year

I had not seen this book before but I love it! and recommend it! Here’s an excerpt–please forgive the long post.

How to look at the world like an artist

“Where do you get your ideas?”

The honest artist answers, “I steal them.”  First, figure out what is worth stealing, and then move on to the next thing.  Everything is up for grabs.  If you do not find something worth stealing today, you might find it worth stealing tomorrow or a month or a year from now. “We don’t know where we get our ideas from.  What we do know is that we do not get them from our laptops,” so said John Cleese.  Lynda Barry advises, ”In the digital age, don’t forget to use your digits!”

Writer Johnathan Lethem said that when people call something “original,” nine times out of ten they do not know the references to the original sources involved.  All creative work builds on what came before.  Every new idea is a remix/mashup of one or more previous ideas.  The artist is a collector—not a hoarder.  Hoarders collect indiscriminately; artists collect only things that they really love.  You chose what to keep out. Creativity is not just the things we choose to put in; it is the things we choose to leave out.  Choose wisely and have fun!

Save your thefts for later—carry a notebook and pen wherever you go.   “It is better to take what does not belong to you than to let it lie around neglected,” so said Mark Twain. You are ready—start making stuff!

Songwriter Nick Lowe said, “You start out by rewriting your hero’s catalog.”  First, figure out WHO and WHAT to copy.  Copy your heroes—who inspires you?  Who do you want to be? Who do you want to emulate? What if all your favorite artists got together with you leading the crew and collaborated?  Afterwards, what is in there that makes you different?

GOOD THEFT               VS.              BAD THEFT

Honor                                                 Degrade

Study                                                 Skim

Steal from many                                Steal from one

Credit                                                 Plagiarize

Transform                                          Imitate

Remix                                                 Rip off 

Creative people need time to just sit around and do nothing. If you are out of ideas, take a really long walk. Take time to mess around.  Wander. You never know where it is going to lead you.  Do not worry about a grand scheme or unified vision for your work.  Do not worry about unity—what unifies your work is the fact that you made it.  One day, you will look back and it will all make sense.

Make friends, ignore enemies. Kurt Vonnegut said, “There is only one rule I know of:  you’ve got to be kind.”  Artists need curiosity, kindness, stamina and a willingness to look silly. Write fan letters to your art heroes.  Maintain a praise file to refer to on bad days.  Keep notebooks of all of your ideas, sketches, clippings, and drawings.

SOURCE: Steal Like an Artist: 10 things nobody told you about being creative, Austin Kleon. NY:  Workman Publishing, 2012.

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