steal like an artist book summary

As a writer, I’m always looking for ways to improve my craft and become a better storyteller. So when I came across Austin Kleon’s book, “Steal Like an Artist,” I was intrigued. After reading the book, I can confidently say that it has changed my perspective on creativity and how I approach my work.

Kleon’s book is not your typical self-help guide or how-to book. Instead, it’s a collection of short, but powerful insights on how to be more creative, innovative, and inspired. In this book, Kleon shares his philosophy that creativity is not about coming up with something completely new. But rather about taking existing ideas and remixing them in new and interesting ways. Through a series of practical tips and inspiring anecdotes, Kleon offers readers a roadmap for unlocking their own creative potential.

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Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1: Steal Like an Artist

The first chapter sets the tone for the rest of the book, introducing the concept of “stealing” ideas as a way to fuel your own creativity. Kleon argues that all creative work builds on what came before it and that nothing is truly original. By embracing this idea, you can focus on creating original work instead of striving to create something fresh.

Chapter 2: Don’t Wait Until You Know Who You Are to Get Started

Austin Kleon advises us to start creating now instead of waiting to know who we are, which could hinder our progress. Creating helps us discover ourselves and our interests. Our initial attempts should be viewed as experiments and not be too critical of ourselves if they don’t go as planned. Famous creatives like David Bowie reinvented themselves through experimentation, and we should do the same. The chapter offers practical tips on how to start creating, such as setting aside time, carrying a notebook, and embracing constraints.

Chapter 3: Write the Book You Want to Read

This chapter is particularly relevant for writers, but the underlying message applies to all creatives. Kleon argues that the best way to create something that resonates with others is to create something that you would want to consume yourself. By focusing on your own interests and passions, you can create work that is truly authentic and compelling.

Chapter 4: Use Your Hands

In a world dominated by digital technology, it can be easy to forget the power of working with your hands. Kleon suggests that by incorporating tactile elements into your creative process, such as drawing or collaging, you can tap into a different kind of creativity that can be both therapeutic and inspiring.

Chapter 5: Side Projects and Hobbies Are Important

In this chapter, Kleon encourages you to pursue side projects and hobbies that may not be directly related to your main creative pursuit. These projects can help you explore new interests and skills, which can then be applied to your primary creative work. Plus, they can provide a much-needed break from the pressure of creating “serious” work.

Chapter 6: The Secret: Do Good Work and Share It with People

Kleon emphasizes the importance of not only creating good work but also sharing it with others. He suggests that we should be generous with our creativity and not hold back from sharing our work with the world. Kleon explains that sharing our work can help us build a network of supporters and collaborators who can help us grow as creatives. He also advises us to share our work online and use social media to reach a wider audience. The chapter concludes with the reminder that doing good work and sharing it with others is not just about gaining recognition or praise but about contributing to the world and making a positive impact through our creativity.

Chapter 7: Geography Is No Longer Our Master

In the digital age, where we can connect with people from all over the world, geography is no longer a limiting factor for creatives. This chapter explores the benefits of connecting with like-minded individuals online and the power of online communities in fueling creativity and collaboration.

Chapter 8: Be Nice (The World Is a Small Town)

In this chapter, Kleon emphasizes the importance of kindness and generosity in building a successful creative career. By being nice to others and supporting their work, you can build a network of collaborators and fans who will be more likely to support your own work in return.

Chapter 9: Be Boring (It’s the Only Way to Get Work Done)

Chapter Nine explores the idea that creativity requires routine and discipline. Kleon suggests that by establishing a regular work schedule and sticking to it, you can create the space and time necessary to produce your best work. He also encourages you to embrace boredom as a necessary part of the creative process, as it can help you focus and generate new ideas.

Chapter 10: Creativity is Subtraction

In the final chapter, Kleon argues that creativity is not just about adding more elements but also about taking things away.

Kleon starts by explaining that when we think of creativity, we often focus on the act of adding more things. We believe that more is better, and we try to cram as many elements as possible into our creative projects. However, Kleon argues that this approach can actually hinder our creativity.

According to Kleon, the key to creativity is subtraction. By taking away unnecessary elements, we can create a more focused and impactful piece of work. This approach requires us to be intentional and selective about what we include in our creative projects.

Kleon gives examples of successful creative works that have utilized the power of subtraction. For instance, the famous Apple iPod was successful not because of the number of features it had but because of its simplicity. Similarly, the minimalist design of the Google homepage has made it one of the most popular search engines in the world.

Kleon also emphasizes the importance of editing and revising our work. He suggests that we should always be willing to remove elements that do not serve the purpose of our creative project. This approach can help us refine our work and make it more impactful.

steal like an artist by austin kleon
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Key Takeaways from “Steal Like an Artist”

  1. Creativity is not about being completely original. It’s about remixing existing ideas in new and interesting ways.
  2. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike – make creativity a habit by working on something every day.
  3. Surround yourself with inspiring people and ideas.
  4. Steal from a variety of sources, not just your own field.
  5. Share your work – it’s the best way to get feedback and improve.

Now, let’s take a deeper dive into some of these key points.

1. Creativity is about Remixing

According to Kleon, creativity isn’t about entirely new ideas, but rather remixing existing ones in innovative ways. He urges readers to collect inspiration from various sources and use it to create something fresh. Kleon’s “Newspaper Blackout” poems demonstrate this approach by taking a newspaper article and highlighting only a few words to create a new poem. This is a perfect example of Kleon’s remixing philosophy – taking something old and turning it into something new and exciting.

2. Creativity is a Habit

One of the most common misconceptions about creativity is that it’s something that strikes you out of the blue – a bolt of lightning from the heavens. Kleon argues that this simply isn’t true. Instead, he says, creativity is a habit that you can cultivate through practice and hard work.

Kleon encourages readers to make creativity a daily habit by setting aside time every day to work on something creative. It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, artist, musician, or any other type of creator – the key is to make creativity a regular part of your routine.

3. Surround Yourself with Inspiring People and Ideas

Another key point that Kleon emphasizes is the importance of surrounding yourself with inspiring people and ideas. He encourages readers to seek out mentors and collaborators who can help them grow creatively, as well as to seek out new experiences and perspectives.

Kleon also suggests that readers take a break from their usual routines and seek out new experiences – whether that means traveling to a new place, trying a new hobby, or just reading a book outside of your usual genre.

4. Steal from a Variety of Sources

As the title of the book suggests, Kleon is a big believer in “stealing” – but not in the sense of outright copying someone else’s work. Instead, he encourages readers to steal from a variety of sources, remixing and recombining existing ideas to create something new.

Kleon suggests that readers look beyond their own field for inspiration, and be open to stealing ideas from art, music, science, and any other area that interests them. By expanding your sources of inspiration, you can create something truly unique and original.

5. Share Your Work

Finally, Kleon emphasizes the importance of sharing your work with others. Whether you’re an aspiring writer, artist, or musician, sharing your work is the best way to get feedback and improve.

Kleon suggests using social media and other online platforms to share your work, as well as seeking out real-world opportunities to showcase your talents. By putting your work out there, you can connect with others who share your interests and build a community around your creativity.

how the book inspires me

How “Steal Like an Artist” Inspires Me

One of the most significant takeaways from the book is the idea that creativity is not something that you are born with, but something that you can develop and improve over time. Kleon argues that the best way to become more creative is to “steal” ideas and inspiration from others.

While stealing might sound like a negative thing, Kleon explains that it’s not about copying other people’s work but taking inspiration from it and incorporating it into your own creative projects. By doing this, you can create something that is unique and original.

Kleon also emphasizes the importance of creating what he calls a “creative family tree.” This involves identifying the people who have influenced and inspired you throughout your creative journey and studying their work. By doing this, you can gain a deeper understanding of your own creative process and learn new techniques and approaches to your work.

Another key takeaway from the book is the idea that creativity is not about waiting for inspiration to strike but rather about showing up and doing the work every day. Kleon stresses the importance of developing a creative routine and committing to it consistently.

For me, this has been a game-changer. I used to wait for inspiration to strike before I would sit down to write. But now, I have developed a routine where I write every day, regardless of whether I feel inspired or not. This has not only helped me become more productive but has also improved the quality of my writing.

Why You Should Read “Steal Like an Artist”

If you’re looking for a book that will inspire you to be more creative, innovative, and motivated, then “Steal Like an Artist” is a must-read. Kleon’s writing style is engaging and accessible, making it an easy read for anyone interested in creativity.

In addition, the book is filled with practical advice and exercises that you can use to improve your own creative process. Whether you’re an artist, writer, musician, or any other type of creative, you’ll find something of value in this book.

Finally, “Steal Like an Artist” will challenge your preconceived notions about creativity and encourage you to think outside the box. By embracing Kleon’s philosophy of stealing ideas and inspiration from others, you can unlock your full creative potential and take your work to the next level.

key insights and takeaways


What is the main message of “Steal Like an Artist”?

The main message of “Steal Like an Artist” is that creativity is not about coming up with something completely new, but rather about remixing existing ideas in new and interesting ways. Kleon encourages readers to be collectors of inspiration and to make creativity a habit through regular practice and hard work.

Is “Steal Like an Artist” only for artists?

No—Kleon’s book is for everyone who wants to be creative, despite the book’s title. “Steal Like an Artist” offers practical guidance and fascinating anecdotes for writers, musicians, entrepreneurs, and anybody seeking more creativity.

What are some practical tips from “Steal Like an Artist”?

Some of the practical tips Kleon offers in “Steal Like an Artist” include:

  • Make creativity a habit by working on something every day
  • Surround yourself with inspiring people and ideas
  • Steal from a variety of sources, not just your own field
  • Share your work to get feedback and improve


Whether you’re an aspiring artist, writer, musician, or simply someone looking to tap into their creative side, “Steal Like an Artist” offers a wealth of practical advice and inspiring insights. By embracing Kleon’s philosophy of remixing existing ideas and making creativity a daily habit, you can unlock your own creative potential and create something truly unique and original.

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