How to Steal Honestly

The perception of artists is that they are brimming over with original ideas. But if you ask them where they get their ideas, artist Austin Kleon writes.

In Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, he says: “The honest artist answers, I steal them.'”

According to Kleon, there’s no such thing as a completely original idea: “All creative work builds on what came before… If we are 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.”

Go ahead and imitate the people you admire for practice, he writes, not to pass their ideas off as your own, but with the goal of one day emulating them: “A wonderful flaw about human beings is that we’re incapable of making perfect copies. Our failure to copy our heroes is where we discover where our own thing lives. That is how we evolve.

“So: Copy your heroes. Examine where you fall short. What’s in there that makes you different? That’s what you should amplify and transform into your own work.”

For more information: austinkleon.com/steal

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.