My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Author’s Purpose: “All advice is autobiographical.” Kleon theorizes that those who give advice are telling themselves what they should have done, and thus, the reason this book happened. Nor is it for Artists, alone; these 10 principles apply to all who seek creativity in their life and work.
1. Steal like an artist.
2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.
3. Write the book you want to read.
4. Use your hands.
5. Side projects and hobbies are important.
6. The Secret: Do good work and share it with people.
7. Geography is no longer our master.
8. Be nice. (The world is a small town.)
9. Be boring. (It’s the only way to get work done.)
10. Creativity is subtraction.
A brief synopsis from inside the front cover: “Nothing is original, so embrace influence, school yourself through the work of others, remix and reimagine to discover your own path. Follow interests wherever they take you—what feels like a hobby may turn into your life’s work. Forget the old cliché about writing what you know: Instead, write the book you want to read, make the movie you want to watch.
“And finally, stay smart, stay out of debt, and risk being boring in the everyday world so that you have the space to be wild and daring in your imagination and your work.”
This is a very brief, yet fairly comprehensive, presentation of ‘starving artist’ myths and their real-life counterparts. Each chapter includes an inviting call to action—not so much a DO THIS as a Try This =0)
Kleon follows his own advice by writing the book he’d want to read, and his joy in creation is evident. It’s all laid out in black and white. Literally. The graphic design and layout of the book looks like it comes straight out of his journals. Perhaps that’s one of the inviting qualities—that we can so easily have done this ourselves. But we didn’t. (Not yet, anyway.)
The recommended reading list is worth pursuing. I’d only known of Fried & Hansson’s Rework before this, and I’ve since thoroughly enjoyed Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. What shall I pick up next?
All of this is packaged in what appears to be a good, sturdy binding. It’s a book for passing amongst friends and disciples. As we ‘steal’ from one another, it’s good to let the rest of the world know that this is all done with the best intentions. No point in reinventing the wheel when what we need are more whirlygigs.
If you love doing what you love to do best and aren’t sure what to do about it, then read this book. And when you see someone else doing what he and she loves to do best, and if he or she is shy about it, then pass it on.
Austin Kleon is a writer and artist. He is the author of the redacted poetry collection Newspaper Blackout, and his work has been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, PBS NewsHour, The Wall Street Journal, and the art website 20x200.com. He lives in Austin, Texas, and online at www.austinkleon.com.
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