I speak with artist and writer Austin Kleon — best known for his book Steal Like an Artist — about the benefits of using analog tools in a digital world.
We talk about Austin’s own unique office setup, which features an analog desk and a digital desk, and the unexpected power of going slow and working within constraints when you’re in the early stages of getting an idea off the ground.
The conversation features lots of practical tips on when to use analog and digital tools in your creative process, as well as ideas for setting up your workspace in a way that helps maintain your focus as you switch between tasks.
Key takeaways from the conversation:
- Why the best work often germinates in the analog space and gets executed in the digital space
- How moving your body in physical space can act as a “brain reset” to help you shift your focus
- When you should use a pencil and when you should use a keyboard as you execute on your ideas
- How the constraints of analog (pen, paper, books, etc) can super-charge your creativity
- Why the impulse to edit and/or tweak immediately can shut down the creative process
- How writing things by hand helps you learn better and infuses them with meaning
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“People have always been anxious about the technologies that they use to do their work. It’s never really been so true that the same device that you can use to write your book, or to make your artwork, can also interrupt you and distract you throughout the day.”
“I think this idea of constraints in work and in life is super-important. There’s something about analog tools — there’s a simplicity that’s easier to get started with.”
“The notebook is the place where you figure out what’s going on inside you or what’s rattling around. And then, the keyboard is the place that you go to tell people about it.”
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Between Austin’s and my own predilection for referencing things that have influenced our thinking, this list of bits and bobs mentioned in our conversation is pretty in-depth:
- Graphic novelist Art Spiegelman and his book Maus
- Graphic journalist Wendy MacNaughton
- Neil Postman on technology
- The history of markers
- Artist Andrea Zittel on creativity and constraints
- Matmos and music made from washing machine sounds
- Interview with designer James Victore
- Profile of cartoonist Lynda Barry
- Clive Thompson on pencil vs computer
- Austin’s son Owen and his drawings
- Quote from Nora Ephron’s book Heartburn
- Alan Jacobs book How to Think
- Blackwing Palamino pencils
- Follow Austin: Website | Twitter | Instagram
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