if you recall, i got stuck in a rut last week. everything i wrote felt crappy. i hadn’t “fed my artist” so to speak, i hadn’t done anything new or different to create fresh images or ideas.
so early Sunday morning i took “steal like an artist” by Austin Kleon, the really cool artist/writer who i'm sure you know of, to the beach. it was early and i had time to watch the awesome surfers before tourists infiltrated.
as i read, i started wondering why it had taken me so long to pick it up. honestly, i think the title’s theft implication deterred me. but it will not turn you into a criminal. instead, it’s fun and inspiring, teaching you lessons like,
“nothing is completely original…If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.”
what sweet relief!
plus, his suggestions are doable. here are some of my favorites:
TREE OF INFLUENCE
“chew on one thinker—writer, artist, activist, role model—you really love. Study everything there is to know about that thinker. Then find three people that thinker loved, and find out everything about them. Repeat this as many times as you can. Climb up the tree as far as you can go.”
this is important for inspiration and to feel less alone on the journey but i've never bothered. it’s not in my nature to get obsessed with a particular person, unless we’re talking about an indifferent love interest, so this is uncharted territory for me.
also, these people are flawed, often greatly. and their eccentricities have probably deterred me from getting too close. but it’s not a marriage, especially since most are dead. we’re allowed to take only what we like and move on.
i don’t even know who influences me. it’ll be fun to find out.
he suggests making an “analog desk,” where you keep creative supplies only, no electronics allowed, for using your hands and for inspiration when you feel blocked.
he makes excellent points about computer work—even if it’s creative—being very static and cerebral. we need to encourage the body/mind connection, not sever it.
although my own analog desk is also known as “the top of my dresser,” i love the concept and can’t wait to test it. here are the supplies i got, and how i store them.
“DON’T BREAK THE CHAIN”
Kleon also discusses Jerry Seinfeld’s “don’t break the chain” technique. apparently Seinfeld keeps a yearly calendar in view and every day after writing new material he earns the supreme privilege of crossing that day out with a big “X.” after a few days there’s a little row, and within a few weeks you’ve got a hefty chain. that creates an incentive to keep it continuous. at least, it should.
even though they are ugly and gigantic, i was willing to make the aesthetic sacrifice but my local office max did not have those calendars.
but i found something even better—writersstore.com, which carries a free, downloadable PDF “don’t break the chain” calendar. it’s great for any habit you want to establish and since it’s undated you can start any time, like on march 25.