Austin Kleon describes himself as a writer who draws. He wrote (and drew) the New York Times bestselling book, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. He also wrote the book Newspaper Blackout, which features poems created by blacking out text in the newspaper. We talked with Austin during his current “Steal Across America” tour about creativity and the church:
Right up front in Steal Like an Artist you pull out the Bible and remind us that there’s nothing new under the sun. So why do you think we’re always searching for something original?
Austin Kleon: Originality is a moving target—we think we can hit it, but it’s usually a little out of reach—but it’s the reaching for originality that often pushes us into new or fresh spots.
If nothing is original how do we get through to people in a way that connects when we’re telling the same story over and over again?
Austin: A bunch of different ways—the easiest way is to update the story for the audience, to set the story in a context they understand, or in a language they speak. Think of Joyce translating The Odyssey into early 20th century Dublin in Ulysses, or every Shakespeare movie adaptation, etc.
Churches are notorious for stealing ideas. What’s the difference between stealing like an artist and just plain stealing?
Austin: Stealing like an artist is about taking the inspiration you steal and turning it into something new and better—transforming it into something that’s your own, that’s barely recognizable from its original state.
Much of your book is really about how to be creative. Many of our readers are working for churches where they need to crank out creative stuff day in and day out. Do you have some tips for how to sustain that type of creative output?
Austin: Yeah, I think the most important thing is time management: scheduling time to work and time to recharge every day—setting up a daily schedule for work and play. I have two hours scheduled in the morning where I work no matter what, and I have one or two hours in the evening where I read and rest to recharge. (The rest of my hours are in a constant state of flux.)
Artistry and creativity is kind of a hot topic these days. Why is that? Is creativity somehow permeating into all kinds of jobs that have traditionally been non-creative? Or are we suddenly realizing that creativity has been needed all along, no matter your job?
Austin: Probably more of the latter. Creativity is what pushes us forward as humans—the first guy to strike a stone against another stone over a pile of wood was pretty creative.
Read our review of Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon.