Austin Kleon likes to call himself “a writer who draws.” He is the best selling author of three illustrated books (Newspaper Blackout, Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work), and one of the most insightful voices on the topic of creativity. He’s been featured on media institutions like NPR’s Morning Edition, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and PBS Newshour and speaks for organizations such as Pixar, Google, SXSW, TEDx, and The Economist.
In today’s episode we talk about:
- Creativity & creative “genius”. Creative genius can be as much about your network (and how you use it) as it is about your work. It’s by looking around and seeing what people are doing, and also what they are not doing that new ideas form.
- We also talk about morning routines. One of the things that Austin likes to do, which I also subscribe is to, is do the creative stuff first.
- We also talk a bit about productivity. There’s a lot of pressure to hustle. He challenges that idea by saying to not focus on the hustle but focus on doing good work.
Productivity is overrated. Just focus on doing good work. Every day when you go to bed, you need to make sure you did the thing that gives your life meaning.
Watch the Episode
Listen to the Podcast
Some Questions I Ask:
- How did you arrive at stealing being a theme for your first book? [6:14]
- Did you sit down one day and tell yourself that you no longer want to work in a library, you want to write books? [10:00]
- Did you have a job that you loved, or was your job in service of your passion? [13:37]
- Talk about the transition from deconstructing and copying others to making your art your own. [19:06]
- Steal Like An Artist is about going from 0-1; getting started. Is Show Your Work is about what to do after you’ve created your art? [26:54]
- What’s your morning routine? [38:43]
- You add a bit of exercise to your morning and you’ve mentioned that you meditate. [42:00]
- What is something that people don’t know about you? [46:36]
- What’s the 30,000 foot view of Steal Like An Artist Journal? [53:40]
- What are three things you think of more than the average person? [59:23]
- Make up a lie about yourself. [1:01:46]
- What are you really working on? [1:02:17]
- What do you do after success? [1:02:40]
- What’s one thing that’s going extraordinarily well for you? [1:07:26]
- What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? [1:08:15]
- What’s the worst advice you’ve ever got? [1:08:40]
- What’s something that you think that most of us take for granted? [1:09:50]
- Who is someone in the universe that you think we should add to this series? [1:11:49]
- What’s the longest your hair has ever been? [1:12:52]
- What haven’t we talked about that we should? [1:13:10]
In This Episode, You Will Learn:
- How to work like George Lucas; borrow ideas from as much as you can to make something as great as Star Wars [4:40]
- “If you steal from one author it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many it’s research.” – Wilson Mizner [5:25]
- Austin’s first SXSW gig was literally drawing inspiration inspired by the busy event. [6:40]
- The helpful advice one of Austin’s former professors gave him and his classmates to set their expectations of becoming writers: the majority of you will never a living writing, but you can still have a life full of writing [10:15]
- What working in a library taught Austin about which books sell and which books don’t. [11:27]
- My two recommendations for approaching the first steps of your passion. First, do the thing that you want to get paid to do. Put the work out there that’s going to get you the kind of work that you want. Second option, choose a day job that maximizes your time and freedom while you work on your hustle. Make enough just to cover your expenses. [16:30]
- Work begets work. Share the work that you want to keep making. [18:43]
- Two ways to think about genius. One, the star-out-of-the-sky lone genius that was seemingly born with their gift. And the other; the genius that was born from the environmental and social factors. [19:42]
- How to clarify what you should be working on relative to what others are working on. [22:30]
- It’s within the sharing of your work that a community comes together. [34:14]
- One of Austin’s metrics for success is going from being a fan to a peer. [36:23]
- How Austin makes working from home work for his art. [40:55]
- Productivity is overrated. Just focus on doing good work. Every day when you go to bed, you need to make sure you did the thing that gives your life meaning. [42:58]
- How Austin thinks about finding wonder and inspiration, even (or especially) in what’s bland and ugly. [48:22]
- Why you should make bad stuff. [57:58]
- If someone just sent Austin a check to do anything, he would just sit around and read. [1:06:43]
- Sage parting advice from Austin – Forget about the noun. Forget about being a great writer, photographer, plumber. Focus on the verb. Write a lot, take a lot of photos, plumb a lot of pipes. [1:13:27]
This podcast is brought to you by CreativeLive. CreativeLive is the world’s largest hub for online creative education in photo/video, art/design, music/audio, craft/maker, money/life and the ability to make a living in any of those disciplines. They are high quality, highly curated classes taught by the world’s top experts — Pulitzer, Oscar, Grammy Award winners, New York Times best selling authors and the best entrepreneurs of our times.