How do you make great art?

You don’t need to be original. Sit at your desk for hours. Get rid of your distractions.

Instead, you should steal from your heroes. Be yourself. Practice productive procrastination.

Author Austin Kleon has distilled all his secrets to making good art, the things nobody told you about being creative, in a short book called “Steal Like An Artist.”

It will make you question everything you knew about the creative process and help you creative habits to bring forth your best work.

Here are my top 5 takeaways from the book:

1. Don’t Copy, Make It Your Own

You want to be original. You want to create something no one has ever seen or done before. But every time you get an idea for a new project, it seems 1000 people have already done something similar. You’re tempted to go back to the drawing board.


Nothing is completely original. All creative work builds on past ideas. It's a mash up of works that came before.


You are the sum of your influences. Choose wisely.

Pick three artists you love. Devour everything they do. Find three people they loved. Repeat the process as many times as you can. Before you know it, you’ll be making your own work.

The secret is to remix and transform old ideas into something new. That’s what makes it yours.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Nothing is completely original. All creative work builds on past ideas.” quote=”Nothing is completely original. All creative work builds on past ideas.”]


2. Fake it till you make it

You are ready. Start making stuff now.

Even if you feel like a phony. Even if you have no idea what you’re doing. None of us do.

Show up and do the work.


Start by copying. Even the Beatles started as a cover band. Copy your heroes’ style. Copy the thinking behind their style. See the world through their eyes.

Your work will fall short. You can’t recreate the original perfectly. That’s when you go from imitation to emulation. You start remixing the work, putting your own stamp on it.

That’s how you find your own voice.

We want you to take from us. We want you, at first, to steal from us, because you can’t steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice and that’s how you will find your voice. And that’s how you begin. And then one day, someone will steal from you. – Francis Ford Coppola

3. Write the book you want to read

Don't write what you know. Write what you like.


Write the book you want to read.

Paint the art you want to see.

Play the music you want to hear.

Start the business you want to run.

Do the work you want to see done.


4. Use your hands

“Computers have robbed us of the feeling that we’re actually making things,” Kleon warns.

They offer us too many opportunities to hit the delete key. You start editing your ideas before they are fully formed.

Works that come only from the head aren't any good. You need to find a way to bring your body into your work.


5. Side projects are important

It’s the side projects that really take off. The stuff you were doing just for fun. The things you thought you were just messing around with.

Keep your passions. Cultivate all your hobbies. Bounce back between them. Let them crosspollinate each other. That's where the magic happens.


You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards – Steve Jobs

For more tips and myth-busting on creativity, check out Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon. You can grab a copy on Amazon UK or Amazon US.

What’s your biggest takeaway from Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Want More Book Recommendations?

Sign up to the Book Club to receive book recommendations for life + career success in your inbox every month.

By entering your email address, you are signing up for my newsletter.

With love,

Leave a Comment