Over the last five years, I’ve made a renewed effort at writing, something I loved as a kid but let slip in favor of more practical pursuits. [Translation: I gave up what I really wanted in favor of what others wanted for me.] Having no idea what I’m doing, I’ve read a lot of books on writing and creativity, trying to avoid specifics on writing and storytelling mechanics in favor of tips and tricks on the creative process. This book caught my eye on Amazon, and after having it on my wishlist for several months, I finally went for it.
Austin Kleon follows his own advice in Steal Like an Artist, stealing liberally from a lot of smart people, from Shakespeare and Goethe (who supplied the title to this post) to Bowie and Jay-Z, while adding his own perspective on the material. I’ve read most of what he offers here, but I liked his style, and I liked his emphasis on some things that I know but have a hard time remembering. In particular, “Write what you want to read.” and “Be boring. (It’s the only way to get work done.”
It’s a quick read, took me all of about 30 minutes to read 140 pages formatted in roughly the size and shape of a toddler’s board book. It’s slight and pithy, and that’s perfectly fine. I enjoyed the artwork and photographs, and I especially liked the bits of his own poetry, which he creates by taking snips of newspaper articles and blacking out everything but the few words he wants to use. I’m sure it’s not a completely original idea, but I haven’t seen it before, and I liked it.
All in all, it’s the kind of book that looks cute on the coffee table and is easy to pick up and pop open when I need a reminder or a pep talk.