Please Steal Other Peoples Work. You’re Welcome.
Writers are constantly looking for new ideas. I say steal. Steal because you’re lazy and unoriginal. Steal because the ancient wisdom of Ecclesiastes reminds us:
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. -Ecclesiastes 1:9
I say steal other peoples work because their ideas aren’t original, anyway. Take it, use it, and take credit for it.
Okay, not what I mean. Steal Like an Artist. Austin Kleon exhorts us in his book of the same title:
“Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes. The reason to copy your heroes and their style is so that you might somehow get a glimpse into their minds. That’s what you really want–to internalize their way of looking at the world.If you just mimic the surface of somebody’s work without understanding where they are coming from, your work will never be anything more than a knockoff.”
Need ideas? Can’t seem to find your voice?
Go to the works you love and study them. Find the common thread of what holds that piece of art in a special place in your heart.
Why does it work? What makes it unique? How could I make it better?
Don’t copy their stuff verbatim. Mimic their style and simultaneously find your own voice. Remember the place of where these artists drew inspiration is not your own. Your story is not their story and vice versa.
Nothing is new under the sun… because people are people and not much has changed in human history. We want the same things: transcendence, love, justice, food, water, happiness, community, and relationships.
Well guess what? If humans want the same things our stories and ideas will fall in the realm of these categories. The difference being your unique voice, angle, and worldview. The artist is not unique in their core. What makes art powerful is the way an artist describes their vision of the world.
People often tell writers it’s a waste of their time. Hasn’t someone already told that story or solved this problem?
Yep. Nothing new under the sun. And, nope. They haven’t told the story like I will tell the story. They will not solve the problem like I will solve the problem.
Books will never go away. Maybe the platforms we possess. But, they will never go away until humans go away. Every human communicates their worldview and story from a unique set of experiences. For every human born is a new perspective expressed. A new story told.
You can steal like an artist because your experiences are not the same as another. The unconscious and conscious filled with stories, ideas, and inspiration absorbed from our lives and maybe drawing from eternity. Who knows?
Stealing like an artist is not about ripping someone off. It’s about taking what already exists and making it better, adding to it, and putting our unique spin on it. Like Jean-Luc Godard said:
“It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.”
Don’t let originality keep you from shipping your work. It’s not a thing. A non-thing. Why?
Nothing is new under the sun.
Steal like an artist and improve your thing. Give your angle, truth, and voice.
The world needs your story!
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