Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

by Austin Kleon


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Unlock your creativity.

An inspiring guide to creativity in the digital age, Steal Like an Artist presents ten transformative principles that will help readers discover their artistic side and build a more creative life.
Nothing is original, so embrace influence, school yourself through the work of others, remix and reimagine to discover your own path. Follow interests wherever they take you—what feels like a hobby may turn into you life’s work. Forget the old cliché about writing what you know: Instead, write the book you want to read, make the movie you want to watch.
And finally, stay Smart, stay out of debt, and risk being boring in the everyday world so that you have the space to be wild and daring in your imagination and your work.

 “Brilliant and real and true.”—Rosanne Cash

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780761169253
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication date: 02/28/2012
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 24,535
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 6.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Austin Kleon is a writer who draws. He is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work! His work has been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, PBS Newshour, and in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. He also speaks frequently about creativity in the digital age for such organizations as Pixar, Google, SXSW, TEDx, and The Economist. He lives in Austin, Texas, and online at

Read an Excerpt


Every artist gets asked the question,
“Where do you get your ideas?”

The honest artist answers,
“I steal them.”

How does an artist look at the world?

First, you figure out what’s worth stealing, then you move on to the next thing.

That’s about all there is to it.

When you look at the world this way, you stop worrying about what’s “good” and what’s “bad”—there’s only stuff worth stealing, and stuff that’s not worth stealing.

Everything is up for grabs. If you don’t find something worth stealing today, you might find it worth stealing tomorrow or a month or a year from now.

“The only art I’ll ever study is stuff that I can steal from.”
—David Bowie


The writer Jonathan Lethem has said that when people call something “original,” nine out of ten times they just don’t know the references or the original sources involved.

What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.

It’s right there in the Bible: “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Some people find this idea depressing, but it fills me with hope. As the French writer André Gide put it, “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”

If we’re 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.

“What is originality? Undetected plagiarism.”
—William Ralph Inge

Table of Contents

  1. Steal Like an Artist.
  2. Don’t Wait Until You Know Who You Are to Get Started.
  3. Write the Book You Want to Read.
  4. Use Your Hands.
  5. Side Projects and Hobbies Are Important.
  6. The Secret: Do Good Work and Share It with People.
  7. Geography Is No Longer Our Master.
  8. Be Nice. (The World Is a Small Town.)
  9. Be Boring. (It’s the Only Way to Get Work Done.)
  10. Creativity Is Subtraction.

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Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the original post done by Austin Kleon a few years back and loved the ideas that he presented, so when I heard that there was going to be a book, I was estatic! Of course, I immediately had to preorder it for my nook. I also took a look at the book in paperback at my local B&N, and after some thought, I came up with some of its strong point - and one of its weakest. All of the content was exactly what I was hoping to see. Not only was there a reiteration of the information in the original blog post, but there was also new information that I was happy to see. His examples made a lot of sense and the diction was great. The only complaint I would have would be that I wished it was longer - I didn't want to stop reading, yet I finished it in about an hour! That was disappointing, but that is minor considering the obvious time and effort put into the content and ideas. I LOVED the pictures in the book! The white handwriting on black background will forever remind me of this book. It's a very simple thing, yes, but I believe it made a huge different. It stood out! Sadly, the formatting in the e-book version of this was not exactly stellar. It was perfect in the paperback; there wasn't any space wasted, for sure! But I didn't get the same feel with the e-book, and I'm not sure if that's because it's simply too complicated to program it better or not. Mostly it was just that all the pictures were on separate pages with no other text for the most part, and the opening two pages in the paperback had to be compressed into one (you'll understand what I mean if you compare them). I understand that sometimes something that seems so simple can be a headache to put together in a computer program, but it really bothered me. Other than that, about three times while reading, it glitched and wouldn't let me go to the next page, meaning I had to jump ahead with the go to buttons. This, I hope, would be easily fixed; I had this preordered and just read it, so it's natural for there to be some glitches. Overall, this was a G-R-E-A-T book! I loved everything that was shared and the cohesiveness with which Kleon explained his thoughts, and applying them to my own life, I can see the sense it makes for an artist to emulate their heroes. Despite the formatting issues within the e-book and the short book altogether, I think that what Kleon has presented is a thoughtful, informative, and awesome collaborations of ideas. Great job, Kleon! I recommend this book to anybody who is an artistic soul!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very nice.
paulsignorelli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although Austin Kleon's playfully engaging new book jolts us all a bit with his use of "steal" in the title, his intent clearly is to help us understand that 'stealing like an artist' suggests a level of interaction with our sources of inspiration that leaves no room or encouragement for outright acts of plagiarism. Steal begins with David Bowie's admission that "The only art I'll ever study is stuff that I can steal from'; gathers steam with Yohji Yamamoto's advice to "Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find your self'; and leads us to a list of recommended readings that should, if it is not already, be familiar to any of us interested in taking a creative approach to all we undertake. Along the way, Kleon leads us through his 10 thoughts on the theme of unlocking our creativity. And while much of what he has written is far from novel to those of us who have been exploring creativity for many years, the book is cleverly presented and serves as an homage both to sources he acknowledges and others he may not yet personally have encountered.
A_Gale More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is inspiring. At the end you want to get up and start creating!
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lildirtydesigner More than 1 year ago
What a great read and I do suggest not only creatives to read this book. It gives you ten easy suggestions to help you being creative and in a non-textbook type of way. Mr. Kleon has a great and easy approach to his writing and you have to love the quotes, drawings and photos that represent his suggestions. Bottom line, this book is for everyone on this planet who would like to get out of the norm and create something they are proud of. If you don't pick this up - how can you start your day with new knowledge on great tips into the creative mind. What are you waiting for...go and pick this book up!
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Its true, there is nothing "new under the sun". Our personal and unique way of "seeing" is what makes ART an ever changing calling. I loved this book. Witty, informative and guilt removing!!
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I love this book, it has helped me become more confident at school and in my work.
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artiste45 More than 1 year ago
Really a fun book to help you get into a creative swing! Contains lots of exercises written with a great sense of humor very enjoyable read!
kjoNJ More than 1 year ago
highly recommend - lots of great life lessons and illustrations are fun
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