Steal Like An Artist - by Austin Kleon
4 min read

Steal Like An Artist - by Austin Kleon

One of my favorite books of all time. This is one of those books that you shouldn't hesitate to read more than once to absorb as much as you can.


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One of my favorite books of all time. This is one of those books that you shouldn't hesitate to read more than once to absorb as much as you can.

Recommendation: 5/5

My Highlights

...figure out what's worth stealing, then you move on to the next thing.

...there's only stuff worth stealing, and stuff that's not worth stealing.

Everything is up for grabs.

...nothing come from nowhere. All creative work build on what came before. Nothing is completely original.

If we're free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.

Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas.

You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.

You're only going to be as good as the stuff you surround yourself with.

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..." - Jim Jarmusch

Seeing yourself as part of a creative lineage will help you feel less alone as you start making your own stuff.

You have to be curious about the world in which you live.

Always be reading.

Keep a swipe file...a file to keep track of the stuff you've swiped from others. It can be digital or analog—it doesn't matter what form it takes, as long as it works.'s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are.

Fake it 'til you make it. There are two ways to read it:

  1. Pretend to be something you're not until you are—fake it until you're successful, until everybody sees you the way you wan them to; or
  2. Pretend to be making something until you actually make something.

Copying is about reverse-engineering. It's like a mechanic taking apart a car to see how it works.

As Salvador Dali said, "Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing."

The writer Wilson Mizner said if you copy from one author, it's plagiarism, but if you copy from many, it's research.

Don't just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style.

...internalize their way of looking at the world.

Imitation is about copying. Emulation is when imitation goes one step further, breaking through into your own thing.

A wonderful flaw about human beings is that we're incapable of making perfect copies. Our failure to copy our heroes is where we discover where our own thing lives.

The best advice is not to write what you know, it's to write what you like.

Whenever you're at a loss for what move to make next, just ask yourself, "What would make a better story?"

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 product you want to use—do the work you want to see done.

Take time to be bored.

If you have two or three real passions, don't feel like you have to pick and choose between them. Don't discard. Keep all your passions in your life.

Do good work and share it with people.

When you open up your process and invite people in, you learn.

Your brain gets too comfortable in your everyday surroundings. You need to make it uncomfortable.

You're only going to be as good as the people you surround yourself with. In the digital space, that means following the best people online—the people who are way smarter and better than you, the people who are doing the really interesting work. Pay attention to what they're talking about, what they're doing, what they're linking to.

...get comfortable with being misunderstood, disparaged, or ignored—the trick is to be too busy doing your work to care.

"Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work." -Gustave Flaubert

The way to get over creative block it to simply place some constraints on yourself.

Don't make excuses for not working—make things with the time, space, and materials you have, right now.

The right constraints can lead to your very best work.

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


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