Creativity is Subtraction: Rules for Creativity

By Shlomo  Maital   



A student passed on a great new book to me:  Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon, about how to be creativity.  Here are some rules…for breaking the rules.


   “Creativity is subtraction”. Not ‘addition’.  Choose what to leave out.  There is massive information overload.  It’s too easy to add stuff, instead of simplifying, cleaning and reducing complexity.  Think first about all the stuff you can leave out.  How many words did Dr. Seuss use, in Cat in the Hat?  236 !  Why? Because his editor asked for such a book. And he discovered subtraction was his secret weapon.


 “Use your hands!”   Step away from the screen. In this digital age, use your digits (fingers).  Bring your body into your work, not just your typing fingers.


“Steal Like an Artist”.  How does an artist think?  What can I borrow (from this work of art), or actually, ‘steal’?  Figure out what is worth stealing…then move on.  Stop worrying about what is good or bad. Just figure out what is worth stealing, what you can use. Then move on. Everything is up for grabs.  That is why the art world progresses…you can’t patent an artful idea.  I think patents have gone way beyond the original intention..they try to lock up stuff you can’t ‘borrow’..and innovation suffers.


  Remember, nothing is original.  Most of the time, somebody thought of it, maybe long ago. So stop worrying about originality.  Think about execution, action.  The Bible got it right: “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes, 1:9).