I’ve wanted to read Steal Like an Artist since my freshman year of college when I saw a cool art major upperclassman reading it. A couple years later, I read Austin Kleon’s other book for an online writing class, which made me even more excited to read this one. I (finally) got it as a Christmas present this year, and I’m happy to report that it’s just as good as I thought it would be!
Steal Like an Artist was an especially great book to read at the beginning of the year. My aspirations are running wild right now—I have ideas for a hand lettering series to create, articles to submit, blogs to write, habits to break and make, winter activities to try, recipes to cook, places to go. The problem is, I want to do them all at once, right now. And of course, I end up doing none of them. Which is where Steal Like an Artist comes in. It provides some parameters to organize my creative life by.
At intervals throughout the book, Austin comes back to the idea of collecting selectively. He says you can construct a “genealogy of ideas” and that “you are…a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.” I love this reminder that I have control over the creative influences with which I surround myself. I get to choose which books I read at night, which movies I watch on the weekends, and what websites I go to in spare moments throughout the day. And I can tailor the inputs to whatever project I am working on at the moment, which is a very novel idea to me.
Later in the book, Austin reminds us “creativity is subtraction.” The job of the artist is to decide what to leave out; and I think this process of elimination begins with carefully choosing the media I consume throughout the day. This leads me to another point Austin makes: “Use your hands. Step away from the screen.”
My motto for the new year is LESS INTERNET, MORE PAPER 2016. I want to become more aware of when, where, and why I use technology. My laptop and iPad are often default fixtures in my everyday life, but I want to relegate them to tools for specific ends. I want to journal more, create more physical things, turn in better class assignments, be less tired—and I think a lot of these things can be achieved by spending more time away from the screen. “[The computer is] not really good for generating ideas,” Austin writes.
As a society, we are struggling to decide what place technology should have in our lives. It’s a question we all need to ask ourselves, and this is part of my answer. I want a better life than the convenience promised to me by the digital age. I want to get messy and do things the hard way sometimes and exercise my physical body. That means turning off the computer sometimes. So be it.
Are you changing your creative habits this year? Your technological habits? Let me know how you balance creativity and technology!