"We, as humans, are collaboratons."
When it comes to writing, I have always had a knack for it, but like most people practicing their craft, I sometimes find myself getting stuck. I've learned overtime that the most productive way for me to continue creating is to study other artists creations. I recently read a book entitled Steal Like an Artist written by Austin Kleon. Austin Kleon is a creative author who branded himself as "A Writer Who Draws." That's exactly what attracted me to his work. His books are set up in a casual, yet direct, and simplistically visual way. I appreciate his style because as ironic as this may sound, I'm not one for reading. I'll end my unpaid ad by saying that this is a great read and I recommend this book to any creative person trying to understand their passion.
Without giving the entire book away, I would like to share the main concept that was revealed to me. Kleon mentioned that nothing we create can be considered "original." I fell in love with this thought. He's right. He goes on to explain that as artist we go through life deciding what ideas we would like to "steal" and include in our own work. Forgive me if this is a thought that you have already formed at some point in the past, but I found it interesting how Kleon chose to explain it. We don't necessarily steal lyrics, notes, specific movements or even re-create stroke by stroke masterpieces and claim them as our own. Instead, we steal bits and pieces and combine them to create what we then call our own "original" work. In turn, everything today, and for a while now, has been a collaboration.
If you're not familiar with the term collaboration or the context that I am using it in, a collaboration is the act of producing or creating something with the assistance of someone else. You often see this in music, especially considering most songs are co-written these days. This concept, as most do, goes beyond art. We, as humans, are collaborations as well. I'm not talking about the theory of evolution or your parents' night of passion, but our personalities, our likes, dislikes, right down to our fashion choices are all collaborations of ideas we consciously or subconsciously decided to steal. We have molded ourselves overtime to become what we each individually define as "me." You're probably rolling your eyes by now, but should you choose to continue reading this blog, I'll explain to you the significance of this concept.
I'm sure you've heard of the placebo effect. For those of you that have not, it's simply the idea of something having a beneficial effect, not because of the physical act that took place, but only because of the belief in that act. I, to this day, believe in this and the power of the mind. It's inevitable that our thoughts play a huge roll in our lives as conscious beings. So, what if you chose to steal ideas more often? What if you made a conscious decision to consistently edit the collaboration which is yourself? Imagine the amount of confidence that would come with that control. As artists, as people, our creativity could be that much more productive. After coming to this conclusion, I decided to edit my own collaboration.
I once binge watched an animated Netflix comedy series that wouldn't be considered appropriate to all audiences. Although, I started out in awe at their vulgar implications, by the end of the first episode I was literally laughing out loud. I continued to watch until I had completed the entire season. Twice. I noticed over the next few days that I was finding humor in situations I hadn't before. As comforting as it would be to believe that the world had become a little bit funnier over night, I knew that the only thing that had changed was my sense of humor. I had stolen ideas from a cartoon and automatically adapted them to my day to day, very real life. How funny is that? Funny enough for me to realize I needed to give that show a rest. On the other hand, I also have long-term, appreciated parts of my collaboration. Songwriting, my pescatarian diet, all two of my friends and my Spotify playlists.
Whether it's a Netflix series, the people you choose to surround yourself with, the environment that surrounds you, the food you intake, your daily routine, your work, your hobbies, your passions, and of course the music you listen to, we have the power to edit our collaborations to become whatever remix we desire. Now, don't get me wrong, it definitely takes time. Habits are not easily developed, but what we consume, however we choose to consume it, sticks quicker than we think. With this opportunity we have the ability to continuously become the person we see for ourselves tomorrow. An opportunity, that some people believe leaves with the coming of adulthood, but I believe this is where it begins. When you are a child you don't often have control over what you are exposed to. Although, a lot of those past experiences might still be apart of your collaboration today; as an adult you, have the ability to choose.
If you're an adamant reader, an artist looking for understanding, or simply want something to pass the time, I suggest you find Austin Kleon's book. He's on to something. We should, beyond our passions, steal like the artists we are. Artists of our own lives. Being aware of the effect of what we allow ourselves to be exposed to is an ability all too often taken for granted. I encourage you to consistently review the collaboration that you are, and also, to constantly edit it. What has been the most influential to your collaboration? What parts of it have been there the longest? What parts do you see yourself constantly changing?
Steal Like an Artist - Austin Kleon, 2012