your creative ideas are not original

this is my desk, the place where my best thievery occurs

this is my desk, the place where my best thievery occurs

Even if you think your creative ideas are original, you’re wrong. Your creativity is a mash-up of everything, or at least some things, that came before. Except now they are smashed together in a different way that transforms them, you transform them, into something that seems original. What is original is the time and place in which you create this transformation, the ‘you’ of the equation and the bits and pieces you choose to combine, and the hopeful perfection of this arrival. In other words, what is original is the time, the place and the process, not the pieces.

Austin Kleon exposes us to this truth about creativity’s lack of originality. Kleon legitimizes this thievery in his book ‘Steal Like An Artist’ in which he lays out ten principles for properly stealing what came before. Here are his ten principles by which I fully intend to live my future. No more stress while waiting for a truly ‘original’ idea. No more waiting for anything for that matter…..I will take whatever moves me and turn it into something that speaks. Now.

Those are Austin’s words. And these are mine. What are yours?

  1. Collect meaningful stuff: ideas, writing, languages, pictures, thoughts, dreams, songs, places, furniture, facts, people, books, boxes of things. Learn. Google. Ask. These are the bits and pieces that will inspire you. Leonard Cohen inspires me. So do my children, people speaking french, Hawaii, classical piano, autumn, bare feet, words.
  2. There is no there there. You are there now. If you wait you will have missed now. My sister had a plan for her future….but then she didn’t have a future. Don’t wait.
  3. You will do best what you enjoy. Don’t write plays if you don’t like to see plays. Don’t paint if you don’t enjoy painting. Don’t have children if you must be the center of attention. If it doesn’t fill you with joy do something else.
  4. Make things. Music. Art. Stories. Jewelry. Dog houses.
  5. All work and no play makes you dull. All of your bits and pieces unify you into a whole interesting being.
  6. There is no secret. There is doing and sharing. Stop being scared….or be scared and do it anyway.
  7. Go everywhere and see everything. Talk to everyone. Stretch your limits. In real life or virtually get out of your chair. A lot.
  8. You are your reputation. Be a good you.
  9. The devil is in the details….concepts and ideas don’t finish projects or pay bills. Finish your projects and pay your bills. All the little steps count.
  10. Focus focus focus. Some of the time. Don’t let unlimited possibility overwhelm you.

Keep in touch,