Jeff Goins on Real Artists Don’t Starve, Part 2

In his book, Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age, Jeff Goins discusses how we can apply prudent strategies in positioning ourselves for thriving in our chosen field of craft.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 2, Stop Trying to Be Original

In this chapter, Jeff discusses why we should stop trying to be original on the journey of building an artist’s path. He offers the following recommendations for us to think about:

  • Psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi believes that creative work requires five steps: preparation, incubation, insight, evaluation, and elaboration.
  • We often think that “creativity” is actually the final step, elaboration, but we missed a number of elements that must happen before elaboration occurs.
  • In the end, creativity is not about being original. Instead, creativity is about learning to rearrange what has already been in a way that brings fresh insight into old material.
  • The best artist elegantly steals ideas from many sources and arranges them in new and exciting ways. Steal elegantly means that we need to know our craft so well that we can add value by building on our predecessor’s work.
  • The Rule of Creative Theft says greatness comes from borrowing other people’s work and building on it. So, in essence, we steal the right way to greatness.
  • To steal elegantly, we must do the preparatory work of studying the greats who came before us. We must aspire to become a student before we become a thief.
  • The thief begins as a copycat by copying not only from the masters but also from our peers. Thus, we establish our authority in a particular field is by mastering the techniques of those who are already authorities and then some more.
  • The difference between an artist and a copycat is that artists build on the work, and the copycats merely mimic it.
  • When we steal, we do not just copy and paste the work of our predecessors. Instead, once we have mastered the form, we bring those influences in a new way. We curate before we create.
  • Most importantly, we give credit where credit is due by citing our sources as much as possible.

In summary, “The Starving Artist strives to be original. As a result, the Thriving Artist steals from his influences.”