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A 12th century French monk, Bernard of Chartres, once observed, "We are like dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants." I thought of that observation as I read Austin Kleon's brief but insightful discussion of ten "things nobody told you about being creative," with the first serving as this book's title. There are dozens of quotations throughout the narrative that reaffirm Kleon's thesis: Almost anyone can become more creative in what they do and how they live by applying the lessons that Kleon learned during the past decade. What he learned, of course, is what he stole from others and then applied...and the world wisdom they possessed had been stolen from still others and then get the idea.

In his thought-provoking book, Ignore Everybody, Hugh MacLeod identifies and discusses a total of 40 "keys to creativity" and, of course, the first is to Ignore Everybody. Taken literally, that would include both MacLeod and Kleon. However, in each of his several books, MacLeod duly acknowledges his appreciation of countless others who have helped him to become the best Hugh MacLeod he could be. My own opinion is that Kleon has a similar objective: To help his reader think more creatively about becoming more creative by introducing his reader to a variety of different perspectives that will help the reader to become more alert, more aware, of how to live a more productive, a more enjoyable, a more fulfilling life.

The quotations he includes are indeed excellent. Several have become classic insights. Here is a representative selection:

o "Art is theft." Pablo Picasso
o "The only art I'll ever study is stuff that I can steal from." David Bowie
o "What is originality? Undetected plagiarism." William Ralph Inge
o "It is better to take what does not belong to you than to let it lie around neglected." Mark Twain
o "Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find your self." Yohji Yamamoto
o " The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life." Jessica Hische
o "Complain about the way other people make software by making better software." Andre Torrez
o "Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work." Gustave Flaubert

My take on "artistic theft" is that it is essential to the development of more creative thinking. All of the world's great chess players throughout history, for example, devoted thousands of hours to studying and replaying, then evaluating the greatest matches in decades past. The advice "steal only from the best" is relevant to just about all (if not all) human initiatives. However, it is also imperative to then make what you steal your own. In the field of human development, Oscar Wilde is correct: "Be yourself. Every one else is taken." That has been true of Leonardo, Shakespeare, Mozart, and countless other creative artists...and it is also true of those who read this book. I am grateful to Austin Kleon for sharing what he has learned from others and then made it his own: this book.
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on 27 April 2012
At first look, it's high energy and born out of love. The drawings are fun and there's some sage advice about getting started and working with others and keeping a day job and being physical in a digital world. And yet...after... I still felt hungry. No big take-away from the work. Perhaps I've been round the block too many times: I gave it to my painter-photographer son; he thinks it's cool. What do I know?
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on 7 April 2014
Was sceptical going into this but then found myself loving every word and relating to everything in it. It caused me to look at my own process and I could really relate to the "Impostor Syndrome", as well. While someone else mentioned there's nothing ground breaking or new, I feel that's not the point of the book. I didn't go into it expecting it to change the way I think. Instead it reminds you that it's okay to THINK the way you think. It's meant to be read and prompt you to think about your own situation and analyse it. It's a quick read, so it's good for those little procrastinations to get you back into what you were supposed to be doing.
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on 1 April 2013
Read in one hit. As soon as put it down wanted to start creating and exploring. Thoroughly recommend especially if you find yourself stuck in a rut.
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on 2 December 2013
It's very difficult to cope, in this day and age, with a perceived lack of creativity. This book has put me in from a different perspective that I'm sure was just under my nose. Thank you Austin, just what the doctor ordered. Highly recommended to anybody struggling with coming up with "new ideas".
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on 15 April 2012
Although this is a small short book,it's great at being a portable reminder of how to live a creative life.Creative as in any form of self-expression that's important to you.Part practical,part inspirational what Austin Kleon does is describe what drives us.The title comes from his acknowledgement that nothing is new and nothing can be new;what we do is synthesise and add a different slant to other people's work.The other point I took from himis "find yourself as you do the work" instead of waiting until you know what you're doing.
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on 7 June 2014
I love the fact its such a quick read. I love the premis of the book (that nothing is completely original - all artists steal/borrow/evolve. And I love the advice. Makes creativity in general much more practical and less mysterious.
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on 10 August 2016
Fantastic books! Great layout and love the bullet point style. Brilliant! I'd reached a wall with my creativity and this book addressed the issue I had and turned it on its head. Can't wait to get back to doing what I love and get my stuff out there!
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on 16 October 2013
This book has given me the confidence to get back into the flow of making work. I feel it breaks things down and destroys all the enemies of self doubt!
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on 24 May 2012
It's a book full of cliches. I found nothing new in this book. If you want to be inspired or inspire other people yu should read Paul Arden's Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite book.
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