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Steal like an artist: ‘You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes’

Who to copy is easy. You copy your heroes—the people you love, the people you’re inspired by, the people you want to be. The songwriter Nick Lowe says, “You start out by rewriting your hero’s catalog.” And you don’t just steal from one of your heroes, you steal from all of them. The writer Wilson Mizner said if you copy from one author, it’s plagiarism, but if you copy from many, it’s research. I once heard the cartoonist Gary Panter say, “If you have one person you’re influenced by, everyone will say you’re the next whoever. But if you rip off a hundred people, everyone will say you’re so original!”

What to copy is a little bit trickier. Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
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By Wells Baum

Wells Baum is a daily blogger who writes about Life & Arts. He's also the author of four books.

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