a book recommendation

steallikeanartistA month or so ago I happened up on Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative when it was marked down for Kindle. I finally got a chance to read it this week, and it has me thinking. I really wanted to get it for my son, but when I texted him about it, he told me he’d recently read and enjoyed it, too.

So I’m passing the tip along to you. Here are a few bits that I highlighted:

The writer Jonathan Lethem has said that when people call something “original,” nine out of ten times they just don’t know the references or the original sources involved. What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original. It’s right there in the Bible: “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)


Some people find this idea depressing, but it fills me with hope. As the French writer André Gide put it, “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.

“What is originality? Undetected plagiarism.” —William Ralph Inge


…chew on one thinker—writer, artist, activist, role model—you really love. Study everything there is to know about that thinker. Then find three people that thinker loved, and find out everything about them. Repeat this as many times as you can. Climb up the tree as far as you can go. Once you build your tree, it’s time to start your own branch.


You might be scared to start. That’s natural. There’s this very real thing that runs rampant in educated people. It’s called “impostor syndrome.” The clinical definition is a “psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.” It means that you feel like a phony, like you’re just winging it, that you really don’t have any idea what you’re doing. Guess what: None of us do. Ask anybody doing truly creative work, and they’ll tell you the truth: They don’t know where the good stuff comes from. They just show up to do their thing. Every day.

If you’re at all creative, Steal Like an Artist will inspire you to get busy. Check it out.

monday miscellany

~ Inside the multi-million dollar essay-scoring business. Disturbing.

~ Your boss owes you a paycheck, not fulfillment:

But one of the corresponding conclusions that many seem to draw from this is that each of us has some perfect occupational sweet spot that, when we find it and begin laboring in it, will cause the planets to align and all of our wildest dreams to come true. This is a myth, pure myth. The world is fallen and the world of occupations is fallen. There are times when God blesses us with a sense of deep fulfilment and accomplishment in our work. Thank God when it happens. But there are times when your work is tedious and a drudgery. That calls for confession of sin, not necessarily a hunt for a new job.

As they say, read the whole thing.

~ People with a lot of self-control are happier. If you regularly read Proverbs, you already suspect this.

~ How to make a decent cup of tea. (an old essay from Christopher Hitchens) He’s so right about ordering tea in the U.S. A little pot of tepid water and a Lipton tea bag just don’t cut it. This loose English breakfast tea is currently my favorite.

~ What if your gluten intolerance is all in your head?

~ Lay aside the weight of “not feeling like it”:

The pattern is this: the greater joys are obtained through struggle and difficulty and pain, while brief, unsatisfying, and often destructive joys are right at our fingertips. Why is this?

Because God, in great mercy, is showing us everywhere, in things that are just shadows of heavenly realities, that there is a great reward for those who struggle through and persevere (Hebrews 10:32–35). He is reminding us almost everywhere to walk by faith in a promised future and not by the sight of immediate gratification (2 Corinthians 5:7).

~ I found this article on The Valley of Vision very interesting.

And now I’m off to begin an abbreviated work week.  Some really good stuff is on my calendar for the rest of the week, and I’ll fill you in when I can.

Happy Monday,