Book Reviews: ‘Steal Like An Artist’ and ‘Show Your Work’

“Steal Like An Artist” and “Show Your Work” are changing creator’s lives

Here are two book reviews you’re going to want to read if you’re in the creative adventure. I’ve known about Austin Kleon for what seems like a very long time. But, like a lot of things on the Net, his work slipped off my feeds on a technology change and I lost touch with what he was doing.

In cleaning up some other projects, I ran across his name again so I hunted down his website and RSS feed for my news reading system.  

I had read one of his earlier books “Steal Like An Artist” and even had the journal for this.  My search and rummaging through all my bookshelves for the book was in vain until something tickled my memory and I remembered I’d read it through the library.

I purchased the ebook version and reread it.  I found myself understanding it better and I liked it again and (a few years later) it spoke even clearer to me about how we grow from those we follow and those who have gone ahead of us.

The next book ‘Show Your Work’ was written in the same short, pithy, combination of text and graphics. (Note: neither of these books is heavy, long-term reading and you’ll only spend an hour and a bit on your first read-through.)

But if you spend some time thinking about what he’s saying, you may find – as I did – that you need to reread them and then rethink some of your own work.

The Message From ‘Steal Like An Artist’

The message from Steal Like An Artist is that it’s OK to take the basic ideas from another writer because there are no really new ideas left. It’s OK to take those ideas but create them in your own style and delivery system.

To illustrate the above, if the basic idea is “it’s good to have friends and to have friends you need to be a friend,” then how you create that message has to be uniquely yours. 

The underlying message is something we all understand and it’s been written/televised/cartooned/filmed before.

Now, in your turn, you’re creating that idea in your own media and your own words/images/story/medium etc.

And The Message From ‘Show Your Work’

And once done that, you’re ready to read “Show Your Work” because if the message of Steal Like An Artist is to borrow the basic idea, “Show Your Work” states you must then show “the how, the process, behind your creation.”

An example of this might be as I was writing my next book, I’d also write about the methods and processes that I used in researching, writing and promoting my book. It’s a call for transparency to readers/viewers that shows the work and humanity/struggle of the creator.

In Kleon’s framework, the audience truly wants to know the background thinking and work that goes into a creative act. 

Take people behind the scenes of your thinking, planning and work is the basic message. “Think process, not product.”

My Challenge With Book Reviews Of This Kind Of Book

I confess I’m intrigued with the thought of sharing some of the process of creating. The challenge for me is to decide how much and what to share on my various projects.

I’ll have to get back to you about this. Note you can read other posts about books right here

If you have a few moments, please share whether you think this kind of sharing is interesting in the comments below

Want updates every time I publish a new post? Click here

Link Post: Napping, Alzheimer’s and Apples Plus Burnout

As this is the first post in this series, let me explain what I’m doing. I read a lot and when I find something useful or intriguing, I send myself the links.

I have hundreds of these in my Evernote file and I decided you might like to see some of things I find interesting/useful so I’ve decided to share them with you on an ongoing basis.

Cocoa flavanols can boost memory in older people, study says

An apple a day can reduce Alzheimer’s risk, scientists say

The Science of Siestas: The Genetic Basis for Daytime Napping – Neuroscience News

What Causes Burnout and How To Prevent It

Want updates every time I publish a new post? Click here

Ten Tech Tools I Use To Write

As a full-time writer for the past 30 years, I insist on software that works well and allows me to maximize the number of words I produce in a day. Here are the ten tech tools I use.

Dragon Naturally Speaking

My main desktop computer is an iMac but my laptop is a Windows system because I dictate my content using Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Note none of the links are affiliate links

I use this workaround because Dragon software for the MaC, but is maintained on the Windows system.

So I dictate using my iPhone and Voice Recorder Pro ( available for both Mac and Android) and upload to Dropbox. I can download that Dropbox file to my Windows system whenever I do a transcription.

I then use Dragon Naturally Speaking — the transcribe function to take the Dropbox file and turned it into text.


One of the main tools I use is Evernote because it works across all the technology that I use. It syncs from my iMac desktop through to my Windows laptop, iPhones and iPads.

I take advantage of this transferring by uploading my dictated copy into Evernote and when it syncs to the Mac desktop, I copy/paste the copy into the Mac Scrivener system. (Note the newer Mac and Win Scrivener releases no longer sync. The Mac system can read the Win files but not in reverse.)

To answer a question about why I don’t just work on the Win system, it comes down to editing and second drafts that are not voice generated. My word processor (below) and ebook layout software (also below) is Mac based.


As a word processor, Scrivener is designed for writers by writers and it is the best in the business. Its strength is in the editing and organizing of long documents.

And while I use it for articles, it is amazing for writing long works such as books and the organization of those words.

The one thing that I would add is that I do not use 90% of the features of the software and I refuse to let it intimidate me. If you try to understand and use the depth of features right out of the box, you’ll be tempted to stop using it. Use it as a simple word processor and learn to add features as you need them.

Howler Timer

I also use Howler timer on my Mac system to keep track of the various exercises and amounts of time that I want to spend on individual projects in my day.

If I spend one hour dictating a story or series of stories, I set the timer. This allows me to set up 2 to 3 one-hour periods in a row and then take a break between them.

I find if I take breaks. I am much more productive than if I tried to ram through three hours of steady dictating and writing.

Pro Writer Aid

Once I have written something, the next step is to run it through Pro Writer Aid. This is a grammar checker that sits on my desktop and that I had the foresight to buy several years ago when it was first introduced as a premium model. It’s one of the best grammar checkers that I have seen.

Publisher Rocket

Publisher rocket is software you use for keyword analysis and discovery.

If you’re intending to write about a specific subject, you can discover the competitive nature of that keyword or topic. There are four things that it will do at this point — and I emphasize this software is under constant development.

The four things include:

*keyword search
*discover which books and authors are competing in that keyword. 
*category searches so you can identify and add the appropriate categories to your published e-book 
*an AMS keyword search function.

This is one of my key tools for my non-fiction writing and I am a big fan of it.


I have mentioned Dropbox several times in this note. I use it both for a remote drive and transferring files between my various computer systems.

This is a must have for maintaining and backing up files.


Scapple is a free-form software graphics program put out by the Literature and Latte people — the developers of Scrivener. I use it for outlining books or with my current project, which is a multiple character and multiple book series, I use it to keep the stories organized.

Both Scrivener and Scapple are inexpensive compared to the value that they bring to the freelance writer.


Vellum is a Mac based ebook layout and design software that works to produce excellent ebook layouts that are ready-made for updating to all ebook retailers.


I use two graphics programs for all my work. The first is Canva for covers and simple graphics.

The second is the Mac-based Pixelmator which is an “rough” equivalent to Photoshop (but easier to use.)

And that’s it. I try to keep things simple when it comes to tech tools. The discontinuing of Dragon or Mac set me back a bit but the workaround still allows me to be productive. And yes, this note was initially dictated and then edited and transcribed.

You can read other blog posts here about my writing tools

error: Content is protected !!