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30 Days Of Genius Blog: Austin Kleon

A self-described writer who draws, Austin Kleon is an artists’ artist. Assuming he would have to take on the Bruce Wayne/Batman approach to his life as an artist, he surprisingly found that he could do what he loved for a living. This is his advice on how you can too.

I have taken his interview on 30 Days of Genius with Chase Jarvis, extracted the information, and used it to answer common questions by readers just like you, who are looking to take their lives to the next level, or at least a different level than the one they are on.

Please enjoy.

My Parents Always Told Me That Being An Artist Is Only A Hobby

I would love to tell you how wrong they are, but I had the same outlook when I was younger. My impressions of being an artist were of the “starving” variety. Like Bruce Wayne and Batman, I assumed my life as an artist would be night and day, literally. Doing something I didn’t love during the day in order to support the thing I did love at night.

What I started to realize was it wasn’t as “night” and “day” as I thought. I wanted day jobs that would inform the art. Learn from the day job, taking jobs that would make me better at my craft, then my growth in the craft would help me land the next day job. It turned out to be a beautiful cycle. What was even more beautiful was having the income to create. If you handcuff yourself by having to use your art for money, you may head down a path that you don’t want to be on. Monetary freedom is creative freedom. Keep your day job until you can support yourself with your art. But use your day job to push the art forward.

Don’t assume that because you can’t make money yet that you will never be able to. What do you need to get better at? Start there. There are so many aspects to being an artist besides the art, especially today. Not only do you need to create the art, but you need to market it and manage it. You are your own business.

Doesn’t sound appealing? That’s fine, just find someone who loves your art more than you do, then they can do all the stuff you don’t want to. Where you going to find that person? Exactly, get to work.

My advice is to decrease the tension between creation and self-promotion by combining the two. Make sharing a part of your creating and vice-versa. Sharing should become a daily practice as much as the actual daily practice of your craft. A great thing I have found is the added perspective of an audience helps create the art you are sharing with them in the first place. You will start to build community and networking around your art. The bigger the community, the more likely you can do what you love for a living. Sharing creates an ecosystem of creativity and connecting.

What Do You Feel Is The Foundation Of Creativity?

Everything around you is your foundation.

Too big?

Try this:

Take bits and pieces from everything, and create something completely new. Extract as you go and save it for later. Look for patterns. Create, study, make, study more, create more, etc. You should study as much as you make, and share as much as you study and make.

Got it?

Being a creative is as much about the community as it is the individual artist. The best artists in their respective generations are always products of their environment. Being that person that is connected to many different things allows you to create things that no one else can. The more input, the more output. Look at what you are doing, what other people are doing, and more importantly what they are NOT doing. Once you start recognizing that, you can take it on and create your own niche.

Time is also a huge foundation of creativity. You need to spend time every day sitting in your art. Visit it, listen to it, absorb it, and practice it. Schedules and routines free you. Knowing when you have time for the thing you want to be doing every day is liberating. If this is something you really want to do, you need to make sure you are actually doing it.

Never get caught up in the FOMO (fear of missing out), because you are not missing out. You are doing your thing. Let go of what you think you should be doing, or what everyone else is doing. You are an individual with their own goals and dreams. Following what other people are doing will pull you away from them.

If you need to refocus yourself, if you feel like you are not doing the thing you should be, ask yourself: what would I do if no one was paying attention? Or if no one was looking? That will usually be the thing that seems boring, or not cool, and not what everyone else is doing. That is also the best part. The time you are putting in the effort to reach your goals is the same time that will keep everyone else from reaching theirs.

One day you won’t be here, but you get today. What are you going to do with it?


The artist welds their theft in to something completely new.

Don’t flatter through imitation, flatter through transformation.

It’s about content.

Make sharing a part of your daily practice as much as the daily practice on your craft.

Austin Kleon Links

Chase Jarvis Links

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