Last week I wrote the review of Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. There wasn’t much to write about the book in the review that could satisfy my fascination towards it. Many things had been said by many people on creativity and getting ideas, before Kleon came out with his manifesto. Being a writer and an artist himself, he is also a keen observer and a participant of the creative economy in this age of digitization. So I believe being a part of creative economy himself, Kleon’s manifesto is a better outcome of his wisdom. Thus, I decided, why not post the top five things from the book that I learnt and I tend to implement in my daily ritual.
Kleon urges to take a step towards your creative goal by start doing it. He explains everyone is scared to start something and it is a natural sensation. Nobody knows how to do it. But the important thing here is that you have to do it. And to do it, we have to start.
Pretend to be something you’re not until you are—fake it until you’re successful, until everybody sees you the way you want them to.
“What should I write?” That’s what every writer at some point in his career asks himself. And most of them, try to write what they know but Kleon has other thoughts on the subject:
The best advice is not to write what you know, it’s to write what you like. Write the kind of story you like best—write the story you want to read.
Kleon urges you to step away from the screen because sitting still in front of a laptop or a desktop, we are all immobile. Our mind does all the work but our body becomes non-existing. Keeping our body into motion provides our brain to think at a higher rate. Kleon describes his own working model to keep is his body in motion:
I have two desks in my office—one is “analog” and one is “digital.” The analog desk has nothing but markers, pens, pencils, paper, index cards, and newspaper. Nothing electronic is allowed on that desk. This is where most of my work is born, and all over the desk are physical traces, scraps, and residue from my process.The digital desk has my laptop, my monitor, my scanner, and my drawing tablet. This is where I edit and publish my work.
Kleon also emphasizes on keeping your day job which gives you money and a routine. Having money in your hand will give you freedom in what you love to do and having a routine will be the driving force for your creative work, because the amount of time you will be getting, you will like to achieve your creative goal.
The trick is to find a day job that pays decently, doesn’t make you want to vomit, and leaves you with enough energy to make things in your spare time.
The way to get over creative block is to simply place some constraints on yourself. It seems contradictory, but when it comes to creative work, limitations mean freedom. Write a song on your lunch break. Paint a painting with only one color. Start a business without any start-up capital. Shoot a movie with your iPhone and a few of your friends. Build a machine out of spare parts. Don’t make excuses for not working—make things with the time, space, and materials you have, right now.
This has been summed up nicely by Jack White:
Telling yourself you have all the time in the world, all the money in the world, all the colors in the palette, anything you want—that just kills creativity.
With all this creative talk, Austin Kleon’s puts a lot of stress in his manifesto up on the combinatorial creativity and remix culture that we are part of.