About the Author
Austin Kleon is a writer who draws. He is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work! His work has been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, PBS Newshour, and in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. He also speaks frequently about creativity in the digital age for such organizations as Pixar, Google, SXSW, TEDx, and The Economist. He lives in Austin, Texas, and online at austinkleon.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
HOW TO LOOK AT THE WORLD (LIKE AN ARTIST)
Every artist gets asked the question,
“Where do you get your ideas?”
The honest artist answers,
“I steal them.”
How does an artist look at the world?
First, you figure out what’s worth stealing, then you move on to the next thing.
That’s about all there is to it.
When you look at the world this way, you stop worrying about what’s “good” and what’s “bad”—there’s only stuff worth stealing, and stuff that’s not worth stealing.
Everything is up for grabs. If you don’t find something worth stealing today, you might find it worth stealing tomorrow or a month or a year from now.
“The only art I’ll ever study is stuff that I can steal from.”
NOTHING IS ORIGINAL
The writer Jonathan Lethem has said that when people call something “original,” nine out of ten times they just don’t know the references or the original sources involved.
What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.
It’s right there in the Bible: “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
Some people find this idea depressing, but it fills me with hope. As the French writer André Gide put it, “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”
If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.
“What is originality? Undetected plagiarism.”
—William Ralph Inge