top of page

Steal Like an Artist | Book Summary

"Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative" by Austin Kleon is a book that offers valuable insights and guidance for individuals seeking to unleash their creative potential. Through a series of ten insightful chapters, Kleon presents unconventional yet empowering ideas that challenge traditional notions of creativity and inspire readers to tap into their unique artistic abilities. By encouraging readers to embrace their influences, explore diverse sources of inspiration, and share their creative work, Kleon offers a refreshing perspective on what it means to be an artist in the modern world.


"Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative" is a book that holds relevance for a wide range of individuals seeking to enhance their creativity and embrace their artistic side. The book's insights and principles can be applied to various creative disciplines, including writing, visual arts, music, design, and more. It is particularly relevant for:

  1. Aspiring Artists and Creatives: This book is a valuable resource for individuals who are just starting their creative journey or seeking to reignite their creative spark. Whether you're a writer, painter, musician, or any other type of artist, "Steal Like an Artist" provides practical advice, encouragement, and inspiration to overcome creative blocks, explore new ideas, and cultivate a unique artistic voice.

  2. Professionals Seeking Creativity in Their Work: The book is equally relevant for professionals in non-creative fields who desire to infuse more creativity into their work. Entrepreneurs, marketers, educators, and professionals in various industries can benefit from the book's principles to foster innovative thinking, problem-solving, and originality in their respective domains.

  3. Students and Educators: Students pursuing creative disciplines, such as fine arts, literature, or design, can gain valuable insights and practical tips from this book. Additionally, educators who aim to inspire their students and foster a creative learning environment will find "Steal Like an Artist" to be a valuable resource, providing fresh perspectives on nurturing creativity and encouraging students to embrace their artistic potential.

  4. Individuals in Need of Inspiration and Motivation: Anyone seeking a source of inspiration and motivation in their personal or professional life can find value in this book. Whether you're facing creative blocks, seeking new ideas, or looking for ways to express yourself more authentically, "Steal Like an Artist" offers a refreshing perspective and practical strategies to unleash your creativity and embrace the joys of artistic exploration.

  5. Those Interested in Personal Development and Self-Expression: The book's emphasis on self-expression, authenticity, and personal growth make it relevant for individuals on a journey of self-discovery. Whether you're looking to better understand your own creative process, explore your passions, or overcome self-doubt, "Steal Like an Artist" provides guidance and encouragement to develop a fulfilling creative practice.

Overall, "Steal Like an Artist" is relevant for individuals from all walks of life who are eager to embrace their creativity, break free from creative blocks, and foster a more vibrant and imaginative approach to their personal and professional endeavors. It offers practical advice, real-life examples, and empowering insights that resonate with a diverse range of readers, providing them with the tools and mindset necessary to unlock their creative potential.


Chapter 1: You Are a Mashup of What You Let Into Your Life Kleon highlights the significance of embracing diverse influences to fuel creativity. He argues that by studying and integrating the work of others, individuals can build upon existing ideas to create something truly original. For instance, renowned filmmaker Quentin Tarantino is known for his ability to blend different genres and styles to create unique cinematic experiences. By drawing inspiration from a wide range of sources, Tarantino has reshaped the landscape of contemporary filmmaking.

Chapter 2: Don't Wait Until You Know Who You Are to Get Started The author encourages readers to take action and begin their creative journeys without waiting for a defined sense of identity or purpose. Kleon emphasizes that creative exploration is a process of self-discovery and growth. For example, renowned author J.K. Rowling started writing the first Harry Potter book while she was still finding her voice as a writer. Her willingness to start and learn along the way ultimately led to the creation of a beloved and influential series.

Chapter 3: Write the Book You Want to Read Kleon emphasizes the importance of creating the work that resonates with one's own interests and passions. By focusing on personal fulfillment rather than chasing trends or seeking validation, individuals can produce authentic and meaningful art. A notable example is Marjane Satrapi, the author and illustrator of "Persepolis," an autobiographical graphic novel. Satrapi courageously told her unique story, which captured the hearts of readers worldwide and became a critical and commercial success.

Chapter 4: Use Your Hands This chapter highlights the value of engaging in tactile and hands-on creative practices. Kleon argues that physically working with materials can stimulate the mind and generate fresh ideas. An example is the renowned architect Frank Gehry, who often starts his design process by creating physical models using unconventional materials. By embracing the tactile nature of his craft, Gehry brings innovative architectural concepts to life.

Chapter 5: Side Projects and Hobbies Are Important Kleon emphasizes the benefits of pursuing side projects and hobbies as avenues for creative exploration. These endeavors allow individuals to explore new skills, experiment with different mediums, and nurture their passions outside of their main creative pursuits. A well-known example is the successful computer animation studio Pixar. The development of their groundbreaking film "Toy Story" was initially a side project that emerged from their passion for computer graphics. This endeavor eventually propelled Pixar to become a leading force in the animation industry.

Chapter 6: The Secret: Do Good Work and Share It with People The author underscores the importance of creating meaningful work and sharing it with others. By embracing vulnerability and actively seeking feedback, individuals can refine their craft and build connections within their creative community. An inspiring example is the artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon. Initially working in relative obscurity, she decided to share her artwork online and received positive feedback from a growing audience. Through her vulnerability and willingness to share her artistic journey, Congdon became a celebrated artist and best-selling author.

Chapter 7: Geography Is No Longer Our Master Kleon explores the concept of embracing the digital age and the vast opportunities it presents for creative expression and collaboration. With the advent of the internet, geographical constraints no longer limit individuals' ability to connect with like minded creatives and share their work. Kleon cites the example of Amanda Palmer, a musician who leveraged social media and crowdfunding platforms to connect directly with her fans and fund her projects. Through her online presence and interactive approach, Palmer built a dedicated and supportive community around her music, demonstrating the power of digital platforms in expanding creative horizons.

Chapter 8: Be Nice (The World Is a Small Town) In this chapter, Kleon emphasizes the significance of cultivating positive relationships and treating others with kindness and respect. He argues that fostering a supportive creative community not only enhances personal growth but also opens doors to new opportunities. An illustrative example is the collaboration between musicians Paul McCartney and Kanye West. Despite coming from different generations and musical backgrounds, their mutual respect and willingness to collaborate resulted in the creation of critically acclaimed songs that reached a wide audience.

Chapter 9: Be Boring (It's the Only Way to Get Work Done) Kleon emphasizes the importance of establishing consistent routines and carving out dedicated time for creative work. By embracing structure and discipline, individuals can overcome distractions and cultivate a productive creative practice. A notable example is the renowned author Haruki Murakami, who wakes up early every morning and follows a strict writing routine. This disciplined approach has enabled Murakami to produce numerous bestselling novels and become one of the most influential contemporary authors.

Chapter 10: Creativity Is Subtraction The final chapter explores the idea that creativity is often about eliminating the unnecessary and focusing on what truly matters. Kleon argues that by removing distractions and simplifying one's creative process, individuals can achieve greater clarity and produce more impactful work. A compelling example is the minimalist artist Agnes Martin, who stripped her artworks down to essential elements and subtle lines. Through her minimalist approach, Martin created a profound sense of tranquility and contemplation in her artwork.

Throughout "Steal Like an Artist," Austin Kleon provides readers with a wealth of examples, research, and studies to reinforce his insights and empower individuals to embrace their creative potential. By highlighting the experiences of renowned artists, authors, and innovators, Kleon demonstrates the practical application of his principles in real-world contexts. Through engaging storytelling and practical exercises, the book inspires readers to break free from creative constraints, embrace their unique perspectives, and make their mark on the world. It serves as a guiding light for anyone seeking to cultivate their creativity and unlock their artistic potential.


  1. Embrace Your Influence: Recognize that creativity is not about inventing something entirely new, but about building upon existing ideas and influences. Embrace the power of borrowing and remixing ideas to create something unique.

  2. Find Your Voice: Discover and cultivate your unique artistic voice by exploring different creative mediums, experimenting with various styles, and allowing yourself to express your true self authentically.

  3. Embrace Constraints: View limitations and constraints as catalysts for creativity rather than obstacles. Use constraints to push the boundaries of your creativity and find innovative solutions within the limitations you face.

  4. Cultivate Creative Habits: Establish consistent creative practices and routines that allow you to develop your skills, foster creative thinking, and maintain momentum in your artistic pursuits.

  5. Embrace Failure and Iteration: Embrace failure as a natural part of the creative process and learn from it. Embrace an iterative approach, continuously refining and improving your work based on feedback and self-reflection.

  6. Steal with Integrity: Understand that all creative work builds upon existing ideas and influences. Learn to ethically and responsibly "steal" ideas by acknowledging your sources and transforming them into something uniquely your own.

  7. Share Your Work: Overcome the fear of judgment and share your creative work with the world. Embrace vulnerability and use feedback as a tool for growth and improvement.

  8. Embrace the Journey: Recognize that creativity is a lifelong journey of learning, growth, and exploration. Embrace the process and enjoy the ups and downs, knowing that each step contributes to your creative evolution.


Exercise: "Exploring Creative Remix"

Objective: To practice the concept of borrowing and remixing ideas to create something new and unique.

Materials Needed: Magazines, scissors, glue, large poster paper, markers.


  1. Introduce the concept: Explain to the students that creativity often involves borrowing and remixing ideas from different sources to create something unique and original. Share examples of famous artists, musicians, or writers who have embraced this approach.

  2. Gather inspiration: Provide a selection of magazines or online resources with various images, illustrations, and texts. Instruct students to browse through the materials and select at least five elements (such as images, words, or phrases) that catch their attention and resonate with them.

  3. Create a collage: Ask students to cut out their selected elements from the magazines and arrange them on the large poster paper in a way that tells a story or conveys a specific message. Encourage them to combine and remix the elements creatively, experimenting with different compositions and combinations.

  4. Reflect and discuss: Once the collages are complete, have each student present their work to the class. Ask them to explain the thought process behind their choices, how they combined the elements, and what message or story their collage conveys. Facilitate a discussion on the power of borrowing and remixing ideas and how it contributes to creativity.

  5. Personal reflection: Have each student reflect individually on the exercise. Ask them to consider how this experience of remixing ideas and creating something new has impacted their understanding of creativity and their own artistic process. Encourage them to write down their reflections in a journal or share them in a class discussion.

By engaging in this exercise, students can experience firsthand the power of borrowing and remixing ideas to create something unique and original. It encourages them to explore their own creative process, think outside the box, and find inspiration in unexpected places. The exercise fosters a mindset of creative exploration and empowers students to embrace their own creative voices.

Recent Posts

See All

How to Build Influence in Leadership

Influence is a crucial aspect of effective leadership. It allows leaders to inspire, motivate, and guide their teams towards achieving common goals. Building influence requires a combination of person

How to Unleash Your Leadership Mindset

In today's fast-paced and ever-changing world, developing a leadership mindset is crucial for success. Whether you are leading a team, managing a project, or striving for personal growth, having a lea

How to Define Leadership Goals

Setting leadership goals is crucial for individuals and organizations to achieve success. By defining clear objectives and aligning them with personal values and organizational objectives, leaders can


bottom of page