Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that which it was torn”
– T. S. Eliot
Steal like an artist
How to look at the world
There’s no such thing as a value judgement, no good or bad, just “worth stealing”, “not worth stealing”. Figure out what’s worth stealing, then take it. Everything’s up for grabs.
Is it, though? Balancing this philosophy against colonialism, exotification, cultural appropriation and generally Not Being a Dick means that some stories aren’t mine to tell and that’s okay.
Nothing is original
Like it or not, we stand on the shoulders of giants and they stand on top of a mountain of culture and history. Stop trying to be original and start trying to be authentic.
“What is originality? Undetected plagiarism.”
– William Ralph Inge
The genealogy of ideas
Any idea is a remix of the thinker’s prior experiences. Curate your experiences wisely, because…
Garbage in, garbage out
… whatever you surround yourself with, you’re going to end up making more stuff like that.
Climb your own family tree
Pick a role model and study them. Pick one of their role models and study them. Rinse, repeat.
A creative lineage grounds you and contextualises your practice.
“Whether you’re in school or not, it’s your job to get an education”.
Be curious, look things up, experiement; go deeper than anyone else. Search for everything before you ask questions; if you can’t find the answer, you might yet find a better question.
“Collect books […] Nothing is more important than an unread library.”
Save your thefts for later
Wrote things down. Thoughts, ideas, favourite poems or passages, overheard conversations.
Keep a morgue file to store things you’ve stolen from others – dead things you’ll reanimate later.
“It is better to take what does not belong to you than to let it lie around neglected”
– Mark Twain