Posted by: steveonfilm | April 10, 2011


Austin Kleon put up a post the other week titled “HOW TO STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST (AND 9 OTHER THINGS NOBODY TOLD ME).

It”‘s a pretty fantastic read for anyone who’s creative, be it a writer, dancer, musician, sculptor, or painter. It doesn’t matter. If you create anything, even computer code, this article is for you.

Kleon’s “artist’s method for stealing” and “nine other things” are as follows:

1. Steal like an artist.
2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to start making things.
3. Write the book you want to read.
4. Use your hands.
5. Side projects and hobbies are important.
6. The secret: do good work and put it where people can see it.
7. Geography is no longer our master.
8. Be nice. The world is a small town.
9. Be boring. It’s the only way to get work done.
10. Creativity is subtraction.

I’m not going to go into specifics or context on each of his points, that’s what the article is for, but I did want to talk about two of them, “Write the book you want to read” and “Side projects and hobbies are important.”

3. Write the book you want to read.

I think everyone who’s ever looked into becoming a screenwriter has heard the term “write what you know.” This is age old “wisdom” that people hash and rehash time and time again. It’s become conventional wisdom. And in most cases it doesn’t work for people. What do I know? I know how to be me. To a lesser extent I know what it’s like to be in a marriage. To a lesser extent I know what it’s like to work in the IT field. To a lesser extent I know what it was like to go to college. To a lesser extent I know what it was like growing up in the midwest. On and on and on and on.

Guess how much of that I’ve written about? None. You know why? It’s boring. No one wants to watch a movie about a guy who gets up and does a nine to five with no unusual excitement in his life. Unfortunately, that’s all I know. It WOULD NOT make a good screenplay. And I certainly don’t want to see a movie about it.

Instead, I write the types of stories that I want to see in the movies. And while doing that I will incorporate aspects of my life and things I’m familiar with to ground it in reality. Doing this CAN make a good screenplay. It isn’t a guarantee, but it can help.

The term should be “write what you want to see at the movies, and incorporate elements you’re familiar with when needed.” But that’s not as catchy.

Bottom line, write stories your passionate about. Stories that you want to see and feel. Stories that you want to tell. Not stories you think people want to see or hear or feel. You’re writing for yourself. And until someone is paying you to do otherwise, never stop.

5. Side projects and hobbies are important.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Those three words on the back of all shampoo bottles sum us up almost perfectly. Our daily lives are one giant routine. It’s enough to drive a person insane. And I’m sure some of you out there have come close.

But that part of our lives, the routine, that’s the part that pays the bills. That’s the part that provides us with food, shelter, and clothes. It’s not the part that is who we are (with a few exceptions). What makes us who we are is what we dream of doing. What we working on outside of our routine, our cycle, our grind.

It’s our golf game. Our bowling league. Our chili cook offs. Our fishing. Our knitting. Our video games. Our chess. Our driving. Our writing. It’s everything that puts a smile on our face. And we should never give that up. It is life. And it’s in these activities we are able to experience the world the way it was meant to be…

Your hobbies are who you are, and never let anyone tell you they’re stupid, worthless, or dumb. No one gets to dictate what you get enjoyment out of. No one. Read that again. No one. Do what you enjoy as long as you enjoy it. If it turns into something more, great. If not, at least you know you tried, and you’ll never have that “if I’d just tried to…” doubt in the back of your head.

Until next time, keep writing.


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