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Gospel & Art Intersection: Steal Like an Artist

November 20, 2013 by Jay O'Brien 2 comments

Posted in: Gospel & Art


In his book, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, Austin Kleon reveals how  creativity, itself, is an art. I was tempted to make the title of this post: "Jay's Theivery in Practice: 5 Ways In Which My Creativity Was Sharpened From Reading This Book," but I resisted. Below are some of my reflections on this creativity-inspiring book.

Enter into Austin Kleon’s conversation with the “previous version” of himself and inject some creativity into your life. Steal Like An Artist is incredibly creative and yet a practical work itself. It takes creative from obscurity to possibility, which for someone like myself, who would not self-identify as “creative” is a great thing. As the title stipulates, the book shares 10 ways in which creative can flourish in your life:

Steal Like An Artist - 10 Ways


Here are 5 Ways In Which My Creativity Grew From Reading this Book:

1. Originality is a myth. Kleon opens the book by drilling this home. “What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All Creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.”

2. A creator is a learner. Creativity doesn’t happen in isolation but is nourished as someone meditates on the creativity of others. Quality art will challenge you. It will make you think. A willingness to be challenged and to think is critical to growth and creativity.

3. Do and don’t label yourself a creative. Label yourself a creative to yourself. “You might be scared to start. That’s natural. There’s this very real thing that runs rampant in educated people. It’s called ‘impostor syndrome.’” Remember, everyone starts somewhere. Don’t wait to be an expert or you’ll never get started.

On the other hand, don’t label yourself a creative to others. Rule number one, a creative person doesn’t have to tell others they’re creative. We boast about our insecurities, because we have to say what people don’t see.

4. Answer the “Why?” not only the “What?” If we only interact with “what” is produced by another artist we don’t have a full appreciation behind what drives them. We must get to the foundation of “why” they are producing it in the first place. In other words, we need to learn to think like the people want to emulate.

5. Reflect and Capture. Stop! Seriously, stop reading this and look around you. Notice the colors, the textures, the smells of your environment. Be willing to stop, reflect, and then capture your thoughts. Keep a journal or take notes on your smart phone, and be willing to revisit the small and grand thoughts captured over time.

How this better developed sense of creativity intersects with the gospel:

Guess who invented creativity? God. And He created you and me to model His creativity! We model creativity most effectively, not by coming up with something new or totally original, but by mimicking (a kind word for stealing) God’s gospel of grace and redemption. In other words, gospel creativity is not coming up with a new gospel, but reflecting the original gospel in fresh and creative ways. All our creations are telling a story. Whether you’re creating a business, a song, a family, a book, or a painting ask yourself:

What story are you telling? And, why are you telling it?


I really appreciate "don't wait to be an expert or you'll never get started" and the part about nothing being truly original. Those are two things that have been obstacles for me -- thinking that what I create has to be completely new or it's not worth creating and thinking that I have no business "pretending" to be a writer, musician, etc. because so many are so much better at it than I am.

Elise on Nov 20, 2013 at 12:48pm

Jay, I really appreciate your reflections on the book. In a culture where well-seasoned and talented artists are often elevated I think it can actually discourage the novice from putting more time into the creative process because they think, "I could never do that." The #5 takeaway, Reflect and Capture, has actually transformed my own creative process to the extent that I went from dreaming about becoming a writer someday, to making time to write week in and week out.

Gabe deG on Nov 20, 2013 at 11:04am

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