Austin Kleon is a magician. Well…not really. Actually, he’s a writer who draws. The magic is found in between the words he weaves together in simple perfection. As soon as we picked up his book, Steal Like An Artist, it was almost as if the passion from his fingertips left his hand and electrically transferred into our creative minds. His suggestions were so inspiring and authentic that we instantly wanted to rearrange our entire lives and push full throttle into our creative dreams. In that way, Austin Kleon is a magician; a performance artist inspiring creativity where it might otherwise be unseen. After having read Steal Like An Artist and his first book, Newspaper Blackout, we were excited to interview Austin and find out his deeper thoughts on writing, living and laughing. We were not surprised to find his responses so authentic that they spoke almost like the quotes from his books…
1. Define yourself using six words.
I am a writer who draws.
2. Tell us about Newspaper Blackout.
Newspaper Blackout is a poetry collection made by redacting newspaper articles with a permanent marker. (Imagine the CIA doing haiku.)
3. Tell us about your book Steal Like an Artist.
Steal Like An Artist started out as a talk I gave at a community college — it was a simple list of 10 things I wish I’d heard when I was first getting started. The basic idea of the book is that all creative work builds on what came before — nothing is completely original — and the way to be more creative isn’t to run away from influence, but to run towards it.
4. What are your three favorite books?
Ack, what a question — one I find impossible to answer. Instead, I’ll give you my 3 favorite books I’ve read this summer:
– Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
– The Art of Money Getting by P.T. Barnum
– On Solitude by Michel de Montaigne
Also: Some novels I love and books I foist on people.
5. What would be the theme song for your life?
Oh, that’s easy: Elvis Costello’s “Everyday I Write The Book.”
6. When you’re writing, what, if any are rituals you do?
I have an “analog” desk in my office — no electronics are allowed on it, and that’s where most of my writing starts, in longhand.
When I’m on deadline and I have to crank something out, I try to pick the most meat-headed loud rock and roll I can and punish myself by blasting it until I’ve finished — Soundgarden is really good for this.
7. Of all of your quotes, do you have a favorite?
“You are a mashup of what you let into your life” pretty much sums up my POV.
8. What advice would you give to a writer who wants to get published?
Forget it. Forget being published. Write what you like and find a community of people online that you can share your work with.
9. What are 3 essentials to being a writer?
I have a favorite New Yorker cartoon where a girl is sitting in a window writing a letter to her parents: “Dear Mom and Dad: Thanks for the happy childhood. You’ve destroyed any chance I had of becoming a writer.”
1. You have to read a lot.
2. You have to write a lot.
3. You have to really like doing number 1 and number 2.
10. Tell us about how you incorporate drawing in your live events.
When I’m giving talks, a lot of times I’ll draw the ideas out for the audience — way better than a slide show.
11. Having lived in both, what are the main differences between Ohio and Texas?
Texas is a hell of a lot hotter.
12. How do you measure success?
I take it day by day, and I have low standards. If I took my dog for a walk, made my wife laugh, and made something, it was a good day.
13. Of the 10 things you write about in Steal Like an Artist, which do you think is the most important?
8. Be nice. (The world is a small town.)
The world doesn’t necessarily need more creative artists — it need more decent human beings.
14. What are 3 things no one ever told you about being an artist?
Other than the 10 things in my book? Hmmm…
1. “Authenticity” is a marketing term.
2. You will benefit tremendously from a solid knowledge of sales and showmanship.
3. It doesn’t get any easier.
15. What are your three simple luxuries?
Each person who lives in my house has access to 1.5 toilets at all times.
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*Image Source: Austin Kleon’s Facebook Page