If fear of being unoriginal has you struggling in your creative endeavors, Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative is the perfect piece of encouragement. A fun and concise read, Steal Like an Artist, will help you push past roadblocks and focus more on doing what you love.
Regardless of what kind of creative work you do —or want to do—hesitation may stem from believing your work needs to be 100% original. Kleon quickly reminds readers that nothing is completely original: “All creative work builds on what came before.” Knowing you no longer have to hold your work up to an impossible standard of originality is liberating.
Now, don’t think this book advocates for plagiarism. Kleon clearly describes the differences between “good theft” and “bad theft.” There’s a big difference between a remix and a rip-off, as illustrated by a nifty, hand-drawn chart. While Steal Like an Artist doesn’t delve into the nuances of copyright law, it succinctly describes right and wrong ways to get ideas. It even includes quotes from famous creatives, showing that even the great ones don’t magically pull brilliant ideas out of nowhere; they cull from what’s worked before.
The book also delivers suggestions for tapping into imagination. Kleon encourages readers to have side projects and hobbies, to share their work, and to get away from their screens and use their hands. While these general tips may seem tangential, they all serve to help readers find new ways of coming up with ideas so as to avoid the desperation that can lead to bad theft.
No matter your creative field, no one should expect you to render something out of nothing. If you’re feeling stuck or suffering from impostor syndrome, Steal Like an Artist is just the creative pep talk you need.