The Daily Gamecock

​New York Times best-selling author talks creativity, college at Richland library

<p>Austin Kleon was at the Richland County Public Main Library discussing his ideas for creativity and freedom of ideas.</p>
Austin Kleon was at the Richland County Public Main Library discussing his ideas for creativity and freedom of ideas.

New York Times best-selling author Austin Kleon visited the Richland County Library on Monday to discuss creative communities, sign stacks of his books and answer a few questions from the audience.

Kleon, the author of “Newspaper Blackout,” “Steal Like an Artist,” and “Show Your Work!" gave advice on how to “steal like an artist,” and create by gathering inspiration from a network. Kleon showed attendees the difference between two models of creativity, with the second, or “scenius,” model as his chosen method of creating and sharing work.

“The genius model — the kind of lone genius,” Kleon said. “These superhumanly talented people are born — they’re kind of dropped into our midst. And they have some sort of special connection to the muse and the stuff just kind of pours out of them." Kleon went on to say, "In contrast to the genius model, there is this thing that musician Brian Eno calls ‘scenius,’ and what Brian Eno’s idea of 'scenius' is is that great ideas and creativity are actually the result of a very rich ecosystem of minds.”

Kleon’s talk dealt with inspiration as an artist, but also with the practical side of creating and marketing one’s art, striking a balance between the economical side and the more psychological side of making art.

The event was held on the second floor of the library in the midst of the branch’s hands-on labs and maker spaces — places for Columbia residents to learn skills such as painting and Photoshop, or to work on artistic, business or passion projects of their own, free of charge. The creators of this space were assisted during the development stages by Kleon’s books — a key reason in bringing the author to Columbia.

“We were given the task of creating this great department, but like all artists, we got stuck in a creative rut,” Richland Library Studio Services Manager Mary Kate Quillivan said. “So reading stuff like [Kleon’s books] — that’s really inspirational … [it’s saying] you don’t have to make a masterpiece on the first try, you just have to make something every day, do a little bit every day. So [Kleon’s work] really was integral to getting us on the right track for this space.”

After Kleon’s talk, a question-and-answer session and book signing were held, allowing readers to interact face-to-face with the author. During this time, attendees were able the hear Kleon’s thoughts on an array of topics wider than those covered in his presentation — including his thoughts on college.

“When I got out of college I realized that it was this kind of artificial environment,” Kleon said. “I mean, you’re paying to be in class, and your professor is getting paid to read your work and the other students are paying to read your work. So it’s this kind of artificial environment where people have to be nice to you, and they have to read your stuff and they have to give you really good feedback. And then when you get out of college you realize no one cares at all what you write and you have to prove yourself.”

According to Kleon, this post-diploma “real world” pushed him to truly discover his passions in writing, allowing him to move past writing only what his professors wanted to read.

However, Kleon’s main piece of advice to students who want to create was not to try and discover personal artistic passions in spite of assignments and professors, or to try and experience the real world before graduation, but rather to stay out of debt.

“I think creative freedom a lot of times comes from monetary freedom,” Kleon said. “Some of my advice to college students is to get out in the world, make sure you’re out doing things and moving towards what you want to do, but also get done relatively quickly and don’t drag it out too long because it gets expensive.”