Business Book Reviews & Scenes, Featured News, Opinion Pieces

Stealing like an artist versus copying like a fraud

August 29, 2014

steal-like-an-artist-austin-kleon-3Stealing like an artist is that delightful concept of being able to explore, adopt and build the next layer to an idea. In essence, we all steal like an artist because there’s never any truly unique version of the things we produce as a writer.

Whether we’re marketing a business or highlighting our work as a creative practitioner, we all borrow from our community and those who have come before us.

However, there is a big difference between stealing like an artist and copying like a fraud.

An artist steals ideas and incorporates them into their work. They learn from other ideas, improves them. An artist investigates and digs until they understand. A fraud simply re-writes the work of others to pass off as their own. Or cobbles other ideas together and hopes the sound of their voice will drown out the absence of thought.

So how do you know when you are dealing with an artist or a fraud?

Be warned, once you work out how to spot it, you’ll never be able to unsee it. And it might shatter the illusions of expertise or loyalty you have placed in your chosen creative, business or lifestyle person.

So if you brave enough, continue on to discover how.

Ready? Ok, you asked for it!

The hallmarks of the fraud

When you are dealing with someone who copies others work, they won’t have worked through the process of discovery. A fraud may be very talented at spotting the weaknesses in other people’s approaches to exploit them, but they will also lack the in-depth insight of the artist. Therefore, while they may be able to fill in the gaps, they won’t be able to understand the initial foundations of the idea.

Research makes the difference. An artist steeps themselves within a creative idea and starts designing from a perspective of looking from the inside out. They research, experiment and become knowledgeable through knowing the theory and putting it through its practical paces. An artist understands the framework beyond the execution, and offers a far richer experience because they know the idea in depth.

And from this depth of thinking, you’ll be able to see:

  • A strategy behind the ideas. You’ll see how their contribution connects to a wider umbrella of the works place in the world.
  • A depth of understanding. A person who has pondered the work can always speak on it from a variety of different perspectives. They can see the flaws and the benefits.
  • An orientation towards solutions and sharing the information to assist others learn. The passion, intrigue and intellectual investment will be there, and they’ll want to share as opposed to protect the knowledge.
  • A continuance in the learning and production. An artist will rarely see the journey as finished and will keep learning and experimenting with new ways to crack the puzzle.

Personality wise, a fraud is fairly easy to spot in the crowd if you are looking for it.

An artist will… A fraud will…
Happily share their tricks of the trade because they know they don’t own the knowledge. Protect their information, often ferociously. Probably because they know as soon as the knowledge is shared, they have very little else to offer.
Take time out of help other people and will feel naturally compelled to give information, advice and offer assistance. Begrudge people asking them for help. They may offer training services, but be angered by questions that fall outside their money making ventures. The joy of exploring the idea is absent and replaced with a “my money!” mentality.
Feel honoured when asked to speak in front of people about their chosen field. Speak ill of situations where they aren’t paid to speak and present.
Take on any opportunity to help produce an idea and be a part of a team creative project as a matter of personal pride. And they’ll promote the places that offer the opportunity well after the situation has ended. Not expose their tribe or following to someone else’s event. They’ll take the money, but they won’t emotionally invest in the process. Their approach to opportunity is to exploit it rather than expand it.
Welcome experimentation and the opportunity to learn from feedback, failure and being a ‘beginner’ again. Want to maintain their superiority at all times and will only learn new ways of doing things if they have to. They’ll also take feedback and failure personally. Emotional over-reactions will be common.
Give credit and praise where credit and praise are due. Downplay other people’s achievements or even try to white-ant others.
Understand that sustainable practise means paying the bills, but they’ll also put community before the money on an ideological level. Be in it for the money, fame and glory.
Do what they do for the love of creating and (in most cases) would prefer a small tribe of people who “get it” over an entourage and fan club. See the number of cheerleaders as their measurement of success. They’ll chase visible social approval over meaningful connections.
Enjoy the work that felt like something wonderful to create. The true measure of success will come from how they feel within. Be chasing awards, poll positions and external praise. Success is a popularity contest and everyone is a competitor.
Have healthy self doubts and moments of concern over the risky nature of their work and challenges they push themselves through. The doubts will be internalised and directed at self. They may be used as fuel to drive the creative process. Use arrogance and anger as a shield to cover their nerves and worry. The doubts will be externalised and used to blame others.

So when you’re marketing a business or your creative pursuits, the lesson is try to be as authentic as possible. Believe in what you do. Dig deep and think it through.

Stealing like an artist is about growth, empowerment and using creativity to create something that will last. It may be in the craftsmanship, the teaching or the continual practise. People who devote their time and energy to making sure the little imprint they leave on the world is one of thought and beauty deserve fostering and praise. As an artist, you may toil your whole life and never know fame, yet leave a body of work you can be proud of.

Copying like a fraud is all about immediate gratification and intangible measurement. When you are creating cheap knock offs and blatantly manoeuvring to rip off other people’s deeper thinking, you don’t end up with much. After all, the work won’t stand up to the test of time. Many of the approaches will be to satisfy flavour of the month style thinking that will fade. And you’ll no doubt piss off a truckload of people in the process.

So if you’re dealing with an artist, rejoice and learn. If you think you’ve got a fraud, pack up your toys and get out of dodge.

And that’s how you deal with stealing like an artist versus copying like a fraud.

Need help marketing a business or getting a creative idea off the ground? Want to develop your own unique voice in the crowd without the fear of copying?

Why not book me as your marketing coach? It’s good for what ails you!

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