One of my new goals is to write book reviews for books that I read and I just finished one while I was on vacation a few weeks ago that was fantastic. The book is called “Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative” by Austin Kleon. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of the book or Austin before having his book recommended via a leadership podcast I was listening to. I’m always super curious about what other leaders I admire are reading, so when one of them highly recommends a book I usually try to pick it up. That principle actually goes great with one of the things Austin said in the book. In talking about reading books he said, “It’s not the book you start with, it’s the book that book leads you to.”
I read the book on my iPad Kindle App so I don’t know how it looked actually laid out on paper, but the book is incredibly easy to read. There are 10 chapters for the 10 things, but each chapter is broken up into little “chapterettes” if you will that are super easy and quick to read. Each chapterette is packed with great practical insight. You can tell in writing the book he was living out one of the principles he taught: “It’s often what an artist chooses to leave out that makes the art interesting.” “In the end, creativity isn’t just the things we chose to put in, it’s the things we choose to leave out.”
That principle is huge for me in preaching. I heard it somewhere else, but when it comes to preaching I always say, “All killer no filler.” I think the hardest work of a preacher is discerning what to leave OUT of our messages. But it’s in choosing what to leave out that we actually make what we leave in most productive. Creativity is not always what is seen, but what is unseen.
There were tons of great confirmations in this book, ie. Living a debt free life, marrying the right person, establishing and keeping a routine, keeping an idea file always on hand (digital or hard copy) to store ideas, but there were also so many great new takeaway’s from this book as well. Like any great book, you can’t implement everything you read, that would be overwhelming. You have to actually practice what you just read, choose what to leave out. So here are the four takeaways for me that I’m going to try and start doing to steal like an artist.
- Start a praise file — Austin had a section on keeping a file of “praise” mail that comes in for your work. Everyone get’s hate mail, and it’s easy to let the haters bring you down. As a pastor, I can tell you that the one negative comment is louder than the 10 positive ones you receive. That’s just human nature. So he suggested keeping a praise file for those days where you question your calling, want to give up, or are just down in the dumps. Reading how your work has impacted someone else might just give you the fuel to keep moving on.
- Start a hobby — I don’t have a hobby. I really don’t know what I want to do for a hobby, but I need one. I’m open for suggestions that don’t involve fishing (not gonna happen), camping (unless you give me a Class A motor home), or golfing (tried it and I wasn’t very Christian while doing it). My line of work is very mentally and emotionally taxing, so I need something that doesn’t require a lot of mental effort. I always tell people that watching TV is my hobby. My wife and I love watching TV together. It requires no brain activity at all. But I am looking for a real hobby. I need an escape. Austin said, “It’s so important to have a hobby. A hobby is something creative that’s just for you. You don’t try to make money or get famous off of it, you just do it because it makes you happy. A hobby is something that gives but doesn’t take.”
- Start a daily logbook — I keep a journal of my quiet time with God each morning. I don’t always write something down, but I always have my journal with me as I’m reading and praying. This is different though and I really liked the idea. Already started doing it. It’s not writing down everything you did that day, but just asking the question, “What’s the best thing that happened today?” If you only think about what happened today, you’ll most likely think of the worst thing that happened, but if you answer “what’s the best thing that happened?” it could change the entire outlook on your day. He even shared a snapshot from his own daily logbook.
- Embrace boredom — I love this idea, and really this is confirmation of something I haven’t been intentional about in my life. Austin talked about how creatives need time to do nothing. That some of his best ideas are born while he’s doing the dishes, ironing a shirt or taking a really long walk. He said he never takes his shirts to the cleaners because he gets great ideas while ironing his shirts. Love it! I’ve actually got some amazing ideas while standing at a urinal, but that’s another issue all together. We need to let our minds wander and not always be filling them up with activity I think is the point.