Using your environment as a source of creative inspiration and recording your ideas are practices that don’t come naturally to most people. Thankfully, Austin Kleon has given us a powerful tool to help us cultivate these important habits of personal creativity- the new Steal Like an Artist Journal: A Notebook for Creative Kleptomaniacs.
As Kleon describes it on his website, “Think of it as a daily course in creativity: a portable workshop and coursebook, jammed full of inspiration, prompts, quotes, and exercises designed to turn you into a creative kleptomaniac.” You don’t have to read the original Steal Like an Artist book prior to buying the journal, but I recommend it. The book provides some valuable context that will help you understand how he frames the subject of creativity and bringing your ideas to life.
This 224-page journal contains both lined and plain pages, encouraging you to capture your inspirations in both written and visual forms. A pocket inside the back cover is the perfect place to stash bits and pieces of inspiration. “Because if you want to steal like an artist, you need a place to keep your loot,” he explains. Of course! An elastic shock cord protects the notebook from damage, and also serves as a page marker.
In the opening chapter of the journal, Kleon reiterates a core tenet of the book on which it’s based: “Great artists, entrepreneurs and anyone else who has done creative work realizes that nothing comes from nowhere. Everything builds on what came before, and every new idea is just a mashup or remix of one or more previous things. Nothing is completely original.”
Your job, he explains, is to become a collector of good ideas. He encourages readers to take the journal with them wherever they go, and to make it a habit of pulling it out and writing thoughts and observations in its blank pages. “By the time all these pages are full, you’ll have learned how to look at your influences and your everyday life as raw material for your work. You’ll be ready to take what you’ve stolen, turn it into work of your own, and release it back into the world, so we can steal from you.”
This sounds like an amazing mission. So let’s dig into this unique creative journal to see what treasures we can find.
Unique creative exercises are impressive
The Steal Like an Artist Journal contains an eclectic collection of questions and exercises designed to help you mine your ideas and inspirations. I’m a big fan of ideation tools that use questions and exercises as creative catalysts, so I immediately love Kleon’s simple, thought-provoking format.
Some pages contain a question at the top of the page, and give you plenty of room to capture your thoughts. Here are several examples:
- Take a walk on your lunch break. Write down everything you hear, see or think.
- 10 things I could have done but didn’t
- Write your favorite quote. Now say it 5 different ways.
- Start randomly typing into a search box. Write down the autosuggestions.
Other exercises take a more visual approach. A perfect example is a black page with a grid of white boxes, 3 columns wide, entitled “1+1=3.” The first two rows of boxes are filled in, to show you how this exercise in creative combination works (Jaws + space = Alien; Flickr + video = YouTube). The rest of the boxes are blank, so you can experiment with your own innovative combinations.
Here are several other examples:
- A diagram that asks you to insert in a box the name of the person you’re most inspired by. From there, the page asks you to record the names of the people they’re inspired by. Kleon calls this your “creative family tree.” Brilliant!
- Paste pictures of your heroes in 4 “frames” provided. Turn to this page when you feel lost or lonely (this page acknowledges the fact that being creative can sometimes be a lonely pursuit, especially if others don’t seem to “get” our ideas)
- Find an old photo and paste it in the page. Come up with 10 different captions.
What’s unique about this creativity tool?
I love the variety and uniqueness of this collection of idea-starters. They’re much different than the usual ones I’m accustomed to seeing in books and articles about creativity. Kleon’s thought exercises may not be aimed at helping you solve a specific problem you’re facing, but it does do a masterful job of helping you recognize and awaken the awesome creative powers of your marvelous brain.
But what if you don’t feel naturally creative? This journal will act like a “sneak attack” on your latent creative muse, coaxing it out into the open and revealing its incredible potential to you. By walking you through a series of eclectic, fun exercises, Kleon’s journal teaches you to be more creative, using your own brain as the instrument of its awakening.
When Steal Like an Artist was first published, I applauded Austin Kleon’s unique take on creativity and bringing your ideas to life. With the journal, he has gifted us with a simple, fun tool that can help you strengthen your skills of creative observation and adaptation. And it truly IS a marvelous gift!
Oliver Wendell Holmes once declared, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” Never was this deep thought more true than with Kleon’s Think Like an Artist Journal. By having you do all of these exercises, your brain is getting an unparalleled creative workout. You’re not just reading about creative thinking techniques, you’re DOING them. That makes it more likely that you will continue to approach your life and its myriad of thoughts and experiences with an expanded, more creative mindset. You will develop what I call an “insight outlook.”
In short, The Steal Like an Artist Journal is the ultimate creative mind-stretcher.
At the modest cost of US$12.95, it’s an excellent investment that will surely provide you with an awesome ROI (Return on Ideas)!