So says Austin Kleon’s little black book of advice for creatives. I picked up the New York Times bestseller Steal Like an Artist at the National Gallery bookshop in London a few months back. Fresh out of drama school and wondering what on earth to do next and how to do it, I saw it as a discreetly-packaged self help book for a creative starting out on their career.
Sitting in the gallery’s espresso bar with a cappuccino and a big slab of carrot cake, I dived in. One of the first comments that resonated with me was that we get to know ourselves through making our work, whether it be writing, acting, singing, dancing, painting, photography, whatever. I think, like many creative people, I’ve had a tendency to feel I can only start making things once I know who I truly am. The notion of discovering myself through my work had never occurred to me before, but once you think like that, it’s surprisingly freeing, and takes the pressure off the outcome of your creative endeavours. This reminds me of one of our mottos from East 15: ‘Curiosity, not ambition’. Now I see it can apply to your whole creative life, not just each individual project.
Along with ‘marry well’, ‘keep a praise file’ and ‘choose what to leave out’, the book includes one of the most striking and relevant phrases I have read about pursuing a creative career: ‘Enjoy your obscurity while it lasts. Use it.’
One piece of advice Austin gives is to ‘write a blog post about someone’s work that you admire and link to their site’, so here I am doing just that. I think it’s a fantastic little book. You may think some of the tips in there are obvious, but if they’re that obvious, why aren’t we doing them? Sometimes we just need someone to write these things down and put them in a book, and thankfully Austin has done just that.