Austin Kleon’s brilliant book “Steal Like an Artist” has a companion journal with invaluable exercises to get one’s creative juices flowing with a bias towards action.
As a music aficionado, I was immediately interested in the exercise: “Make a Mixtape (For Someone Who Doesn’t Know You)”. I wrote down my list and created two playlists (“Make a Mixtape Vols. 1 and 2”) in my iTunes to listen to while I work throughout the day. Hopefully you will create a mixtape of your own and share it with a friend.
Enough writing, here’s the list:
Charles Brown—Black Night
Nina Simone—Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
Jimi Hendrix—1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)
Sun Ra—Calling Planet Earth
Madvillian—Shadows of Tomorrow
A Tribe Called Quest—Excursions
Wes Montgomery (with the Wynton Kelly Trio)—Impressions
Bad Brains—Sailin’ On
Alton Ellis—Reason in the Sky
King Sunny Adé—Sunny Ti De Ariya
Rhythm and Sound Featuring Cornell Campbell—King of My Empire
Hiatus Kiayote—Breathing Underwater
Los Destellos—Onsta La Yerbita
The Black Keys—Weight of Love
Gary Clark Jr.—When My Train Pulls In
Paul Weller—Whirlpool’s End
Three Dog Night—Easy to Be Hard
Terry Callier—Love Theme from Spartucus (4 Hero No Skins Mix)
Nostalgia 77—Quiet Dawn (Examples of Twelve Remix)
“Artists love to trot out the tired line, ‘My work speaks for itself,’ but the truth is, our work doesn’t speak for itself. Human beings want to know where things came from, how they were made, and who made them.” –Austin Kleon, Show Your Work! Chapter 5
Remember the old adage “If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around, does it make a sound?” I used to think this was an absurd question (“of course it makes a sound!”), but what one approaches the question metaphorically, I have a difference of opinion.
One’s creative output is like the tree and putting in the work (chopping it down) isn’t enough. One must make sure people are around to hear the sound. Show the work, explain the work, analyze the work, accept feedback on the work, learn from the work, and create new work.
It’s not easy and it takes dedication, discipline, and patience, but the potential for growth and reward is great. Besides, if no one at first notices one or two felled trees, they will surely notice the clearing you’ve created if you keep on chopping!
Last week on vacation I made time to read Austin Kleon’s, Share Your Work and it inspired me to revisit his previous book Steal Like An Artist one year later.
Mr. Kleon’s intelligent, humorous and straightforward observation of the creative process builds a persuasive case for starting work NOW and sharing it with others (one of my professional mentors refers to it as a “bias towards action”). These books are essential reading for any creative professional or aspiring creative. Happy Reading!
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