Today, I wanted to pull out one specific thing from Austin’s book that inspired me and that I hope will inspire you as well. The title of the book comes from the notion that the way to create something original is to steal it, but to steal in the way artists do by creating a respectful remix based on the admiration and appreciation of the art that has come before.
Assuming that nothing is really original in the world, Austin proposes that we create art (or music, or books, or movies, etc.) almost by remixing it. We steal one element from one person, another style from somebody else, then add an image we happened to see, and suddenly we are remixing. The end result is that something we can call ours: original because it is derived from our own voice, but one formed from so many other artists and so many “stolen” ideas.
I’ve done quite a bit of thinking about this concept and the idea that my voice is really a combination of so many people, thoughts, and art that inspire and challenge me. A sub point Austin makes in the book about this is the call to action: “Climb your own family tree.” This is the idea that when we’re looking for inspiration, we should dive deep into the people who inspire us. After all, he says, “You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.”
When I was searching for creative empowerment and figuring out what my brand & my voice was, I did just that. I opened a keynote slide and just started throwing images up of people who I admire greatly, or who fascinate me, or who make me want to be a better artist or a better person. There were those who I thought I was somewhat like and those who I hope one day I can be like. In just a few moments, I’d filled the slide completely. When I stopped, I looked back and saw it – it was like a mirror.
It consisted of about 10 very different people, but when I looked at it, I could see myself reflected back in a way I’ve never been able to see before: everything I am, I’ve been, and ultimately want to be. As I looked at the collage of influences I saw the way I dress, my sense of humor, the power of story, the joy of baking, the importance of family, and so many more qualities that thus far have come to define me. There were so many elements of myself that I didn’t even realize were qualities that I have, perhaps in some ways, been “stealing” from those whose awesomeness has come before. It was an eye-opener as I struck out on this new blog in particular.
As you’ll see, there’s a wide range of people. I had Audrey Hepburn for her timeless sense of style and compassion, there was Mel Brooks for his unflappable belief that humor is the best weapon we’ve got sometimes, and there were my parents – two of the most different and most inspiring people that I’ve known.
For those that I wasn’t related to, I started digging into his or her backgrounds one by one – especially those that I don’t know how they first got started. Looking at just Martha Stewart, I was blown away to learn she’d only started her first business at 35, hadn’t had her television show until her early 50’s, and now she’s in her 70’s! Just this bit of knowledge helped me to stay motivated and to know the creative road ahead hasn’t run out just yet.
Now I’m so grateful that I’ve got this hero mirror – my own creative family tree – to look at and explore when I need that vital burst of inspiration. If you’d like to create your own, here’s a free printable blank canvas for you to add in all the folks who inspire you. Who belongs on your branches? Happy climbing!