Steal Like An Artist – Book Review

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Steal like an artist

This is one of my favorite books.

I wish I could buy a copy of this book for every Architecture Student and Young Architect in the world.

I come back to this book from time to time and have learned new things from it over the years. It meant something completely different to me three years ago when I read it compared to what it means to me now.

Everyone will have a different take on the book and its beautiful how all of those opinions will shift, grow and change over time.

What Nobody Told You About Being Creative!

Steal Like an Artist- 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative is a book for all creatives, artists, designers, architects or anyone generating creative work. Kleon likes to refer to his book as A Manifesto for Creativity in the Digital Age!

The book started as a speech that Austin Kleon had been asked to deliver to a group of college students. Apparently, his speech went viral on the internet (although I can’t seem to find it). Kleon was inspired to further elaborate on his original ideas about what he wished he had known when he started out as a college student. He ended up with a New York Times Bestseller.

I think what I love most about this book is that it whole heartedly validates my creative process and everything I already believed long before I discovered this book.

Without giving away Kleon’s entire book here are The 10 Things No Body Told You About Being Creative as well as my short summary:

1. Steal like an artist.

This concept is based on the idea that no creativity is original and that all ideas are stemmed from other ideas. There are ways to “steal” ideas without doing so in a negative way. Good theft means honoring, studying, crediting and transforming ideas. This is opposed to bad theft which means degrading, plagiarizing, imitating and ripping off ideas.

This is why we study history, constantly try to understand what has successfully been done before, and find out how that idea can apply to our situation. STEAL THE IDEA!

2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.

If you wait until you figure out who you are and exactly what you want, you’ll be waiting forever. Get started doing what you love, and eventually you will figure out your own way by learning the ways of others.

3. Write the book you want to read.

Create things that you would find value in. Don’t create for someone else, create for you. This ensures that you will always have at least one customer, you!

4. Use your hands.

We are most creative when we make use of all of our senses. Don’t spend all of your time in front of your computer. Get out and do something- cook, run, play an instrument, etc.

In architecture the computer is nothing more than a tool, a tool for getting the work done. Creativity is usually born outside of the digital world.

5. Side projects and hobbies are extremely important.

Your side projects and hobbies are an outlet for your creativity and are a gift that keeps giving. Just because you aren’t making money at it, that doesn’t lessen its value.  These activities can make you more creative and increase your productivity in the jobs that do bring you money.

Maybe its learning about the internet, studying printmaking or film, writing an architecture blog, starting an online business, becoming an yoga instructor, bicycling across America, learning how to brew beer or even riding a bicycle without any brakes all over New York City. All of those things have informed how I related to world a person and an Architect.

6. The Secret: Do good work and share it with people.

Talk to people about your ideas. Their feedback is extremely valuable and can inspire more (and better) ideas.

7. Geography is no longer our master.

Travel is a great tool to spur creativity. Being in unfamiliar surroundings forces you to look at things from a different perspective. Looking at something in a new way and in a new place can inspire completely different ideas.

8. Be nice. (The world is a small town.)

Stop fighting and being so competitive. Appreciate the work of other people and make friends. There is something to be said for being kind.

9. Be boring. (It’s the only way to get work done.)

Consistency is boring. But being consistent and having a routine are the best ways to make the most of your time. Good time management is the best way to ensure that those valuable brain cells are being put to good use.

10. Creativity is subtraction.

Less is more, and figuring out what to leave out is often the key to getting ahead. Creativity subtraction is figuring out exactly what is important and eliminating the rest. Endless possibility is intimidating. Creativity with some constraints can help artists maneuver around a creative block.

The Gist of It

Steal Like an Artist, takes those 10 ideas and hammers away at how to apply them. It is filled with really great and inspiring concepts for all artists: musicians, writers, painters, architects, etc. It is practical and original, and it’s especially important for the challenges faced by modern artists today. It’s a quick read and contains some fundamental ideas for every artist to embrace.

show your work

Kleon followed up Steal Like An Artist with another awesome book: Show Your Work. It provides the artist with a list of 10 ways to share your creativity and get discovered.

If you haven’t checked out Steal Like an Artist, I highly recommend it. It’s super cheap and a very quick read.

Lastly, Kleon has a wonderful TED Speech:

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Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect, and the creator of Young Architect, an online platform and community dedicated to helping the next generation of Architects become the most successful generation of Architects. 
Connect: Linkedin / Facebook / Instagram

Hi there!

I’m Michael Riscica, the guy behind Young Architect. I write to help Architecture Students, ARE Candidates and Young Architecture Professionals be more successful at school, work and life!


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