I would be lying to you all if I didn’t say that I was a big nerd. I don’t fall into the typical film trappings of nerd culture. Anything that begins with “Star” is most certainly not going to interest me and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is just a bore. My biggest interest in film takes the form of anime. Simply put, anime has two criteria. It has to be made in Japan and it has to be animated. Contrary to it’s simple origins, the concept of anime has been something that has grown over time since it’s humble origins in the 1960’s. Countless characters and protagonists have been created with something to tell from their creators. One of the most popular, Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece, has laid the groundwork for character and worldbuilding in anime since it’s debut in the golden age of anime in the 1990’s and still running strong three decades later.
I started watching One Piece back in March during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting. I expected it to tell the tall tales and great adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and his pirate crew conquering the Oda’s beautiful hand-crafted complex world. And in a sense, you would be right but it didn’t end there. I heard beautiful stories of teamwork, bravery, and friendship that blossomed out of Oda’s cruel and complex world that he created full of multiple nation-states, dozens of unique and reoccuring characters- even decades after their premiers, and a full-blown civil war.
This brings us to Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist and it’s central message- nothing is original. In fact, once I started reading it, It reminded me of my own personal philosophy. How I’ve been collecting little pieces of advice and mentorship for the ones I love while Luffy’s been collecting members of his crew while going on his grand big adventure. We’ve both been building on our experiences forging ahead into the unknown knowing that our essence is far from an original creation but a colorful stained glass mosaic of the pieces that we loved in our lives. I would say that is creativity. The ability to see all these broken little pieces of the world- whether in fiction or in the real world- and craft them into something marvelous and grand that we didn’t even expect to create. That’s what I plan to do for the rest of my life. Keep stealing from others and creating my own little mosaic of the pieces I find like an 8 year me wanting all the cool seashells.
I’ve even been enjoying writing this, Taking a ruleset and carving my own take onto it and leaving something memorable for someone out there to enjoy. Having a loose ruleset while writing and thinking of it as a creative exercise to tie together pieces of your life is a great way to practice writing. It has helped me build my confidence greatly. I have other classes where I write just to write but this is something that I wholeheartedly enjoy- writing stories to tell stories. Look for opportunities to tell stories in your writing even where stories aren’t needed to be told. Practice telling these stories and expanding the horizons of your writing and your confidence will grow. Once your confidence grows you’ll practice more and the cycle will continue as your writing gets better and better. Even in the words of the Mother of Austin Kleon, “Garbage in, garbage out” Don’t let the stop the process. Although it may not be perfect, it’s far from garbage. Garbage is something that is without value. It may be poor writing but it can always improve.