When you unshackle the yoke of “true originality,” you’re no longer bound by the “gotta-make-something-out-of-nothing” mindset. You’re free to embrace the thief within. The thief of things you love. Of ideas you love. “Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination.” Jim Jarmusch.
Pablo Picasso said, “Art is theft.” That means artists are thieves. Who knew?
Turns out to be human is to be an artist. Doesn’t matter whether your art manifests itself in a recognized “art” form, in how you dress, prepare meals, arrange your house, or the bridges you build, EVERYONE has a bit of an artist in them. It’s what makes you human. To nurture your soul, you have to do the art thing, in one form or another. Step out on faith. Give yourself permission to create. Go ahead and call yourself an artist. (Or at least think of yourself as one.)
Collect books. Lots of them. Copy passages that resonate. Jot down overheard conversations. Expressions. Ideas. Hum little ditties you like. Doodle when you’re on the phone, at the table, in a meeting, hanging with friends, and on a plane. (If you’re not driving, doodle in the car.)
Toss all your notes into a file. Into an urn. Into a big box. (Or little.) When you need an idea, a bit of inspiration, or just want to prime the imagination’s pump, go to your idea spot. They’ll be waiting for you.
If you’re having trouble thinking of yourself as an artist (or having the traits you believe an artist needs), channel your heroes.
Need a bit of sass? Channel Tammy Bleck.
Feeling a little shaky about embracing your femininity/sexuality? Channel Kitt Crescendo.
Find you’re taking things a bit too serious? Channel Kate Hall.
Uncertain if you can continue creating while a loved one is battling cancer? Channel Comic Strip Mama (Tanya Masse).
That romance novel of yours stuck in the muck? Channel Jade Lee.
With channeling you’re not trying to become that person. You simply realize they have a “something,” (a spark, point of view, attitude/attribute) you can use. So you take it. Even when you claim that attribute, you’ll still add your personal spin, making it yours (so there’s no chance “you” will get lost in the process).
Turns out it really is okay to bypass the whole “gotta pick the tomatoes, clean them, blanch them, and cook them down” process before you make spaghetti (or marinara) sauce. It’s okay to begin with a jar of commercial spaghetti (or marinara) sauce to which you add all sorts of goodies. The addition of those goodies are what makes it your own.
Same thing with your “art.” You’re allowed (encouraged actually) to read a blog post, book, t-shirt, bumper sticker, or even graffiti and say, “Hey, I can turn that into my own creation.”
When you begin with an idea you like, adding to it from your collection of stolen goodies, then mixing and matching/stirring and combining, the end result will be your creation. It will be unique to you.
If you still find the idea of stealing difficult, channel the New York Times Bestseller author of Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon. Hard to imagine he’d mind.
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