Stealing from artists

“How to steal like an artists” has found its way into every nook and cranny of my online bank, and that is because I am obsessed with it.

Artist Austin Kleon gives advice on how to engage with inspiration, borrow ideas, and contribute to that great pool of What’s Worthwhile. Check out Austin’s Newspaper Blackout, poetry he generates by blacking out most of the words from newspaper articles.

Michelangelo had to free his angel from marble; Austin frees poetry from the grey lady.


An excerpt from Austin’s “steal like an artist” post that speaks directly to my advice-&-inspiration-hoarding heart:

9. Be boring. It’s the only way to get work done.

As Flaubert said, “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

I’m a boring guy with a 9-5 job who lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife and his dog.

That whole romantic image of the bohemian artist doing drugs and running around and sleeping with everyone is played out. It’s for the superhuman and the people who want to die young.

The thing is: art takes a lot of energy to make. You don’t have that energy if you waste it on other stuff.

Some things that have worked for me:

Take care of yourself.

Eat breakfast, do some pushups, get some sleep. Remember what I said earlier about good art coming from the body?

Stay out of debt.

Live on the cheap. Pinch pennies. Freedom from monetary stress means freedom in your art.

Get a day job and keep it.

A day job gives you money, a connection to the world, and a routine. Parkinson’s law: work expands to fill the time allotted. I work a 9-5 and I get about as as much art done now as I did when I worked part-time.

Get yourself a calendar. (And a logbook.)

You need a chart of future events, and you need a chart of past events.

Art is all about the slow accumulation over time. Writing a page one day doesn’t seem like much. Do it for 365 days and you have a big novel.

A calendar helps you plan work. This is the calendar I used for my book:


A calendar gives you concrete goals, keeps you on track,  and the nice reward of crossing things off and watching the boxes fill up.

Any goal you want to accomplish: get yourself a calendar. Break the task down into little bits of time. Make it a game.


For past events, I suggest a logbook. It’s not a regular journal, it’s just a little book in which you list the things you do every day. You’d be amazed at how helpful having a daily record like this can be, especially over several years.

Marry well.

It’s the most important decision you’ll ever make.

And marry well doesn’t just mean your life partner — it also means who you do business with, who you befriend, who you choose to be around.

The entire list of advice is excellent. Go check it out, you’ll love it.

If that Flaubert quotation really speaks to you, Imaginary Foundation has that quote screenprinted for display, among other beautiful imagination-provoking art.


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