Thoughts on Steal Like an Artist

Drawing of Steal Like an ArtistDrawing of Steal Like an Artist

I have long believed that I have never and will never come up with an original idea. Nothing is truly original. Every ideas has been had before. In Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon talks about how everything new builds on what has come before it. New ideas take bits and pieces from other ideas and combine them into something new. If we steal many good things from a variety of people, we are able to combine them into something worthy of being stolen by someone else; We create our own voice.

If nothing is original, what’s the point? I’ve been having trouble figuring this one out. Klein included a quote from André Gide:

Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.

I love this perspective. As the father of a four year-old, this hit close to home. So, what’s the point? There is someone who has not heard what you have to say. Even if they have heard it before, they may not have been listening the first time. If they are going to hear it now, why not let it be from you?

While talking about how we are able to learn by surrounding ourselves with people more talent, Kleon said if you ever find that you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.” While I get what he’s saying, it’s too selfish of an attitude for me. A better question than which room can I move to, is how can help those in this room become more talented. I think a lot can be gained from changing your perspective from what can I take?” to what can I give?”

I’ll end with my favorite quote included in the book from Jessica Hische, an incredibly talented designer:

The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.

This makes me look off into the mid-distance and think for a few minutes every time I read it.

Steal Like an Artist is a quick, worthwhile read. I give it a thumbs up. Thanks for reading, and as Klein recommends, I’m going to go and enjoy and use my obscurity.

May 28, 2021