Friday, 11 May 2012

‘Steal Like An Artist’: a bunch of ideas, well communicated

I’m in the ideas-communication business and one thing I learnt early on is a great idea is not good enough; it’s how good you are at communicating it that counts.  Austin Kleon’s new book ‘Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told Me About the Creative Life’ reminded me of this. Like many non-fiction books I buy, I knew what was in Austin’s book before I opened it. I’d watched a video of him speak, I follow him on Twitter and I’d seen and shared the blog post that gave birth to the book so I was familiar with the content. So why did I like it  if I already knew what was in it?

Because Austin is a good communicator. The hard copy version  has a great aesthetic quality - for a start it’s small and square (I once asked my publisher once whether I could have a square book - they said ‘no’!). The layout, the quotes and Austin’s illustrations make it a bunch of ideas well communicated.

When I’m writing my own books, I often visualise the reader as a version of me so I was interested to learn that Austin’s book is autobiographical in that he’s also talking to a previous, younger version of himself. Here are three lessons from the book that got me scribbling:

  1. You are the consumer. Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use - do the work you want to see done
  2. It’s the side projects that really take off. The stuff that you thought was just messing around. Stuff that’s just play. that’s actually the good stuff. That’s when the magic happens. Bounce between them. when you’re sick of one, switch to another.
  3. Don’t worry about unity from piece to piece - what unifies all your work is the fact that you made it. One day, you’ll look back and it will all make sense.

This isn’t just another book about creativity; there’s lessons here to apply to a bunch of different businesses and work lives. And there’ll be more about Austin in my own new book ‘Mash-up!’ as he features with a Q&A on his multi-dimensional life.

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