Friday, June 5, 2015

Stealing Creativity

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Stealing other people's ideas is one of the keys to developing your own creative abilities. That may sound rather crude, but this is truly how it works. From painters developing their skills by copying great works, to writers mimicking the style and tone of their favorite author to arrive at their own - we develop and strengthen our creative abilities by copying, mimicking, and learning from the art of others.


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"Steal Like an Artist", by Austin Kleon, is one of my favorite books on this subject. One of the main themes of this book is that every new idea is just a mash up or a remix of one or more previous ideas. Nothing is truly original (well, maybe Paleolithic cave wall paintings are)...

Kleon quotes many known artists and highly creative people, and they all share this common theme of stealing (or borrowing) ideas from others, applying your perspective, and using that input for the creation of your "unique" ideas. We are not talking about blatant plagiarism or mere imitation, but rather the process of taking ideas from others as a source and inspiration and influence on your own art.

"Imitation is about copying.  Emulation is when imitation goes one step further, breaking though into your own thing." - Austin Kleon

How do you apply this to running your small business? Let me share one recent example...
I am a DirecTV subscriber, and recently received this thank you note with my monthly statement. When I first saw it, the design caught my eye. I liked the simple and clear layout. I left it on my desk for a few weeks, and eventually came back to it and made some notes on it. 

This is a simple example of how you can draw inspiration and ideas from the work of others. 



That thank you note with my handwritten edits then sat on my desk for another few weeks, until I finally picked it up yesterday and created my version of it. I will now use this graphic for social media posts and on our in-shop digital signage. 

The takeaway: Use all sources of inspiration and ideas. Emulate the work of others. Be observant of the art of others - from ads in magazines to great works at museums to nature - and let it help you develop and strengthen your own creative abilities. 

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