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How to Love Like an Artist

I am mostly responding to Austin Kleon’s marvelous piece, “How to Steal Like an Artist (And 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me)”. It’s good, and you should read it.

A stupefyingly brief summary of his post is this:

  1. Steal like an artist (nothing is original).
  2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to make things.
  3. Write the book you want to read (Write what you know like.)
  4. Use your hands.
  5. Side projects and hobbies are important.
  6. The secret: do good work and put it where people can see.
  7. Geography is no longer our master.
  8. Be nice.
  9. Be boring.
  10.   Creativity is subtraction.

It’s a good read. He delves into each of these points to greater or lesser degrees. The lion’s share of his post is on point 1, but everything there is good. I read it and immediately started scribbling an expansion of his point 3.

    Austin points out ‘Write what you know’ is the mantra of beginning writers and those who teach them. He says, it should be ‘write what you like’ instead. The things you like, the things you enjoy, are the things you will most ardently pursue.
    I agree with that, but I wanted to add that I think should be ‘write what you love’. However, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to write what you lust. It is easy, for me at least, to fall into the trap of having an idea that feels great. I want to spend the rest of my life writing just about this idea! I exclaim in my head. But, before I get around to working on that idea, because I have a different major project on my plate, the intensity of my love, my lust, for that idea cools.
    Instead, we should look to have a deeper, richer love for what we work on. Not fleeting lust, but enduring love. Because one day, at four in the morning, when you have a chest cold, inspiration will strike. And if your bedrock is based on the mercurial, flighty emotions associated with quick-fix lust, you’ll just roll over and go back to sleep. If you have something deeper for your work, you’ll force yourself to scramble around in the dark, cursing yourself all the while, to find your pen and your stupid, black of course, notebook. You’ll write everything you can think of down, and four will turn to five. And you’ll want to spend more time with it.
    Really, writing what you love is a lot like being a husband or a father. There will be times it annoys you. There will be times you want a break, and times you don’t think you can handle anymore. But, if you love it, you go back. You force yourself to do the work you don’t always like, because you love it. Because the world would be a dark, hopeless place if you didn’t have your work to go back to.
    If you’ve ever heard of the three Greek words for love (eros, agape, and philia). You know what I mean. Eros is seductive and burns intensely, but it dies quickly. Agape love is a deeper, richer experience. And sometimes it’s a burden, but it’s a burden you love to carry. Philia is more about keg-stands and fist-bumps. I think. I may have that bit wrong.
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