Wednesday, April 6, 2016

IWSG April 2016: Steal Like an Artist

Welcome to another month of the Insecure Writers Support Group, which meets digitally on the first Wednesday of every month.

The only thing I have to tell you this month is to read the opening chapters of Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist.  The rest of it is rubbish, but the first few chapters are essential.  The title argument is pretty clever, in that it suggests you gather a lot of heroes, and steal from them, because it's a lot harder for someone to say you stole from them in that they won't really know what you stole. 

Which is to say, love what you love, and then take away from it what is most valuable to you. 

The third chapter is entitled, "Write the Book You Want to Read," which is equally essential.  So many writers write for the sake of writing, imitating instead of translating, that it's incredibly wearying. 

Imitation is the act of doing what you saw someone else do.  Translation is figuring out what it means from the only perspective you'll ever truly know: yours.  Because translation means taking a story and making it your own.  Believe me, people really can tell the difference, and telling your own story makes all the difference in the world.

But writers are notorious for ignoring good advice.  We're an impetuous lot, prone to all the mistakes everyone else already made, because most advice is about as lousy as everything else Kleon says in his book.  So many of us are motivated to write, to simply put words together in the general semblance other people will easily understand, we overlook the art of it. 

But it really is better to be an artist, and, hey, you might as steal like one, right?
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