Victorian romances, moody vampires, enemies to lovers...its all been done before. So how do creatives come up with new stories to tell? The best ones don’t create something completely new, they take bits and pieces from pre-existing works and add their own authenticity to it.
As creator Austin Kleon puts it, “you can always find something to steal”, or in other words, you can always find something from a pre-existing work to use in your own. The key is to Steal Like an Artist by putting your own unique spin on it.
Austin Kleon is a creative specialist and New York Times bestselling author. His books aim to help people navigate the creative climate present in today’s world by teaching them how to Steal Like an Artist. He emphasizes the need to Keep Going in the face of adversity and Show Your Work! by recording even the seemingly mundane elements of life and the world around you.
As a creator for creatives, Austin brings a unique voice to the world of creative careers. Companies from Pixar to Google have been influenced by his words and ability to combine creativity and authenticity in its rawest form.
How do you create original, compelling work when everything has already been done before? For example, how do you write an epic series filled with elves, dwarfs, and other mythical creatures without it sounding too much like Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia?
The answer: you steal like an artist.
Don’t abandon those works, but pull from them and add your own unique spin that makes yours different. Everything might have already been done before, but they haven’t been done by you.
As creatives, it’s easy to get caught up in the rut of originality. We finally settle on an idea that sounds fresh and new only to discover it reminds us of something we’ve already seen before...ten times. The reality is everything at its core has been done before, but what makes your version different is the way you draw from your own experiences to create and apply your own unique voice. The key to ‘originality’ isn’t starting from scratch and trying to create something entirely new, it’s being willing to be a life-long learner and putting your own spin on elements used by other artists from the beginning.
The rustle of leaves in the night, a plastic bag drifting through the air, the vintage dress coat on a stranger, we never know what might inspire us or inform a piece of creative work. Whatever the method, whether it be a tweed notebook in your back pocket or a color coated spreadsheet, it’s important to have a way of both capturing those moments and experiences and sorting them for later use.
These moments and experiences don’t have to be monumental things. Some of the best bits of inspiration come from the most mundane of moments. If it was enough to draw your attention, it’s worth taking note of.
There is a unique power in not just recording and creating, but in sharing your journey and allowing people to come alongside you in it. Those things that make your voice, style, and self different, that’s what the world wants to see.
The more authentic you are in your art and interaction with others, whether that be in person or on social media, the more you will not just gain followers, but build a community.
In today’s world, it’s easy to get caught up in labels and expectations. Instead of feeding our creativity, these ‘nouns’ of who we are and want to be stifle us. When we try to fit our art into this box, we limit not just our creativity, but our ability to do the very thing art is designed to do... make an impact.
In this witty and insightful talk, Austin teaches us how to Steal Like an Artist and leaves us with, perhaps, the most powerful question a creative could ask themselves: “What are you doing when you head, your heart, and your hands feel united?”
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