Steal like an artist

Austin Kleon asserts that advice is always autobiographical. Which is why he wrote his list of tips about being creative, Steal like an artist, to his younger self.

Ten years ago, he was a nineteen-year-old boy starting his struggle to find a place in the creative sector. After many experiences, peaks and downfalls, he matured a rather interesting understanding of it. And, looking back on his career and life, he felt the need to share what he found out.

What made me curious about this intense, brief and well designed book, and convinced me to buy it, was Advice #9: ‘Be boring’. Kleon states that in order to unlock creativity you must be boring, precise, abandon the romantic idea of the artist and get your work done.

After years spent working within different arts organisations, this gave me a good laugh. It’s an awful truth, but in a fast changing environment, as with all creative organisations, it is the only way of coping with the challenges of the always-present ‘Unexpected’. You have to get your work done. You have to be ‘boring’. It was nice to see someone else found this to be true, for it to be a norm.

However, the importance of being boring is just one of the tips Kleon has to share with all “creatives” and, by extension, with pretty much everyone. Here is the rest of his advice (that he suggests is not to be taken as a ‘must’):

Steal like an artist – Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started – Write the book you want to read – Use your hands – Side projects and hobbies are important – The secret: do good work and share it with people – Geography is no longer our master – Be nice – Creativity is subtraction.

Nothing new under the sun? Congratulations, you’re already a balanced creative person!

But to those a little less sure about how to manage time, passions, the need for creating with the mundane, I would say this clear and open reflection about what working in the creative sector means can be a fun read with some good practical tips.

I’m not sure whether the ‘me’ of ten years ago would have followed Kleon’s advice – I’m not sure you can avoid pitfalls and mistakes in building up your own experience. Maybe mistakes are necessary steps in everyone’s path to become what you want to be.

However, the myself of today is very grateful that someone has been so generous to write down these little simple truths. Simple truths that might help someone else to avoid one or two mistakes, feel less lonely and help to make the foggy landscape of our inner creative pulses a little clearer among the conflicting messages of the external world.

Article by Alessandra Cianetti


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