This is a short post is based on two inspirational quotes which I came across last week about creativity. The first one is by Austin Kleon and the second one is by Bob Dylan. Both quotes are about learning from your creative influences. I am a big fan of Austin Kleon and I consider his book, Steal like an artist, one of the best books on creativity. He advises in a recent video interview with Chase Jarvis that it is important not to steal the style of the creative people that influence you but to steal the thinking behind their style. This requires you to take apart your creative influences’ work in order to figure out what makes it resonate with you and then incorporate that same thought process in your own work. This ensures that you make the leap from being another copycat to a person who builds on the work of his creative influences and takes them further.
Austin Kleon posted his quote as a tweet in 2011 and I believe you should keep this quote in mind when you see creative work that inspires you to create.
Don't steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style.
— Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) April 17, 2011
I discovered this second quote by Bob Dylan in a book, Dylan on Dylan, which I got from the Huddersfield Music library last week. This Dylan quote is from an interview he did in 2004 and it backs up Austin Kleon’s quote and observation.
But you can’t just copy somebody. If you like someone’s work, the important thing is to be exposed to everything that person has been exposed to. Anyone who wants to be a songwriter should listen to as much folk music as they can, study the form and structure of stuff that has been around for 100 years. Bob Dylan (p429)