"Steal Like An Artist", or don't.

"Steal Like An Artist", or don't.
Photo by Victor on Unsplash

I just moved to Austin, Texas and there's an author Austin Kleon who's local and wrote a few books - some of which I'm interested in.

I'm reading Steal Like An Artist and curious to see what he has to say. Maybe something, maybe nothing.

Stealing though... that's a bit hyperbolic. It's like saying that my body is "stealing" food when I eat. Or I'm "stealing" attention from somebody when I talk to them. If I'm inspired by a piece of artwork - am I really stealing from it? No - and of course Kleon knows that. He's trying to get across the point that we shouldn't be so paralyzed by originality. Life is just a big remix.

Now... is truly nothing "original"? I'd debate that. Let's look at the word origin.

origin - the point at which something begins or rises or from which it derives
(Webster Dictionary)

Well if the origin is where something begins - doesn't every day have an origin? Every moment? That things arise and pass away? In fact, I'd say that life as a whole is extremely original - that we can't help but being original. Trying to copy someone else is a fool's errand because it's unavoidable to inject ourselves into the moment. Even if it's just how we interpret a song, or a movie, we're being creative and original.

Saying that new ideas are just remixes of old ideas has some purchase. After all - that's how our minds work. We build patterns of behavior and thought from smaller patterns. Walking is built up of a vast sequence of coordinated muscle movements, homeostatic checks (such as inner ear balance), and visual field interpretation. This is all aligned with a goal that our mind sets and the actions we take are our mind's best bet at achieving that goal (or resolving that imbalance, as it were).

So yes, ideas are remixes. But truly - if we can remix binary into the digital revolution we have today - it'll show you that ideas are not what's important, it's the combination of them. Kleon doesn't iterate on this fact.

He goes on to give some advice. Study the artists that inspire you. Read books. Take notes. Not much to elaborate on here.

This is only section one. There are ten sections. I could probably finish this book in 30 minutes? I'm already doubting that I'll learn anything useful. But if I do - I'll steal it and write it here.

Well apparently there are some people that say that you should copy people you admire. There are also people who say you should trip LSD (which I advise). Should I just be a cover band to start? Maybe. But I think that there isn't just one type of artist - one type of creative. Not everybody copies - just the people that do. Life really is just confirmation bias. Look for people that copy their heroes and you'll find them. Look for people that were against copying, you'll find them too. I suppose. Maybe I should research that.

Anyway, totally lost interest in this book once it started just regurgitating pithy platitudes. I'd say steal like an artist, but don't steal from this one.