As part of my reading for my Personal MBA, I am documenting the key lessons I learnt from Steal Like an Artist. It is not intended to be a summary or review, rather a reflection of how the book has influenced my thinking.
This book was not what I expected. It contains snippets of wisdom, carefully woven together. Contrarian at times.
The core premise is that every idea is stolen from somewhere. Not the whole, but the pieces, with different pieces stolen from different sources. An artist who paints a landscape, steals the idea from the landscape, adds interpretation and personal touch (probably also stolen).
As an example – Mom + Dad = Me. Nothing original, but still unique.
The book basically stole everything. It is littered with quotes and ideas from others, shamelessly done, brilliant. It has a beautiful rhythm to it.
After I binned the last two books in my reading list, something I did not do lightly, I was worried I was becoming fatigued, it was great to find something concise. Not because I am lazy to read a longer text, but because I value my time. As I find it strange that we pay for food by the weight and not the nutrients, so too, the book should be valued by the quality, not the length.
Take time to be bored – “When I get busy, I get stupid.”
Self-imposed solitude is a brilliant catalyst. I started this blog while staying in Bangkok. Some obscure area. I felt and was isolated. I practice this same exercise every few weekends. I only leave my flat for the occasional grocery trip or exercise. At first it feels boring, then lonely, then productive, then amazing. It’s not as easy (convenient) to find solitude these days. Perhaps on your commute? Train delayed? Waiting at the airport? – Rebrand these as gifts of time to be bored.
Find something worth stealing, or move on.
The Artist is a collector, not a hoarder. Rubbish ideas in, rubbish ideas out, worse still they clutter the good ones. I’ve become stricter with where I spend my time, as I aspire for quality. I still watch some rubbish TV or read fantasy, but this is chosen decompression time, when I’m not at my optimum. Ironically I am actually spending longer periods in my decompression time since I made this conscious decision.
Educate yourself, go deeper than anyone else.
Find better questions before seeking answers and keep capturing thoughts for later. I use Evernote and an a5 book. I use this as much as an ideas detox as anything else, to reduce the volume spinning around my head. These notes often become blog posts or business ideas for testing.
Get started, do something. We don’t know where the good stuff actually comes from.
Copy what you love, also called practice.
Copy your heroes. Steal the thinking. Internalise their thinking. Honor, study, steal from many, credit, transform and remix – That is good theft.
Don’t write what you know, write what you like.
Chances are you know something about what you like.
Computers can alienate us from the creative process.
Computers are great for editing, not for creating. They are too perfectionist if we go direct. I default to post it notes and flipcharts. People often want to go more direct. I don’t fully understand why, but I always seem to find a better result going analogue first.
Struggling to make a decision. What would make the better story?
Practice Productive Procrastination– this is basically the byline for my life.
“The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life” – Jessica Hische
Contrarian to the focus on one thing thinking (also right), when you are sick of one project, jump to the next. It is important to have a clear focus on one thing at a time, but also spend time decompressing, playing, experimenting.
Austin says not to worry about unity in your work. I love this. Keep your passions. Often the unity only makes sense when looking backwards.
Do good work and share it with people.
There are no shortcuts. Build, create, daily/weekly. I worried about scrutiny and criticism when I first started writing and sharing. I got a bit at first (perhaps I was looking for it) from people thinking it was constructive criticism, they failed to realise the courage needed initially to start, so they focussed on the minor. Then it stopped, or I started ignoring the fear, I have come to realise if it is not interesting to someone (not good or bad) they will just ignore it.
Sharing has got me to keep the routine.
It has given me accountability. I find a route I’ve run before easier. Why?
Be boring. It takes a lot of energy to be creative, routine gives the freedom from distraction and energy suckers.
Smartest person in the room. Find a new room.
They stole my idea = idea + they did something about it
Keep the day job –
I am battling with this at the moment, whether or not to renew my contract. Keeping it would allow me to continue to enjoy what I love, without the pressure of finding an adequate financial reward. It also gives me a connection to the outside world.
“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.”