Steal like an artist

Good artists borrow, great artists steal

Writers, founders, fellow muggles. I’m writing to you from the beautiful mountains of Montana. The hiking has my calves sore and this newsletter a week late, but other than that we’re thriving.

Here are 1 tactic, 3 ideas, and 1 resource to help you become a more effective, creative storyteller.

Hook of the day: “The Red Union had been attacking the headquarters of the April Twenty-eighth Brigade for two days. Their red flags fluttered restlessly around the brigade building like flames yearning for firewood.”

Reply with your best guess of what novel it comes from. I’ll send the 24th correct reply a copy of On Writing.

Hint: It’s going to be a Netflix series



Storytellers have been confined to 16x9 rectangles since 1987. Then, slides were meant to be printed(!).

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A few weeks ago, I read Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an Artist

But when I was 12, I saw down to write my first book. Eragon sat on the desk next to me as I typed away. This may shock you. My book ended up with dragons, dragon riders, and a big evil bad guy… quite a bit like Eragon.

That’s how to not steal like an artist. Don’t be like 12-year-old me.

But my problem wasn’t getting inspiration from a book.

My problem was getting inspiration from just one book.

After talking with 100s of authors, creators, and other storytellers, I want to share how they ‘Steal Like an Artist:’

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“The first step is to decide what to work on. The work you choose needs to have three qualities: it has to be something you have a natural aptitude for, that you have a deep interest in, and that offers scope to do great work.”

When Paul Graham drops an essay, I read it. This one’s quite long. But I can’t recommend it enough.


Everybody’s Mad:

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.

"Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad."

"How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice.

"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.”


Revealing meaning:

“Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.”

Hannah Arendt

A story doesn’t tell you how to think. Instead, it asks new questions. Or old questions in new ways.


I read a lot of books. And I find a ton of them through my friend Alex. He writes a great newsletter all about books.

  • Book recs

  • Book reviews

  • Book summaries

When I need a new read, he’s the first person I look to. If you’re a reader (or want to build the habit), you’ll love his work too. Check it out.

Want to go deeper on storytelling?

1. If you want a practical way to improve your storywriting in less than 25 minutes daily, check out StoryWork (200+ students).

2. Grab time with me for a 1:1 session on storytelling, newsletters, attracting an audience, or anything else.

3. To sponsor the newsletter, reply to this email for details.

Thanks for reading! Reply any time.

AI Writing and Storytelling

I’ve gone super deep down the AI rabbit hole recently. It can’t think, but damn it can execute (if given the right inputs). If I wrote some about those experiments, would you be interested?

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