w: ajleon

Every Artist is a Thief

Somewhere around AD 8 a pretty bright dude named Ovid completed a 15 volume epic poem depicting the history of the world from the moment of Creation through to the deification of Julius Caesar.

He called this prodigious piece of work Metamorphoses.

In it, there are a litany of stories of different types and from different epochs, some are pretty damn depressing, like opium-induced depressing.

In one such story, Ovid tells the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe, two star crossed lovers who live in Babylon, and whose parents loathe each other because of an old family rivalry. The two are not allowed to see one another because of this vitriolic feud. The young lovers decide to elope, and meet in a nearby graveyard to properly express their love for one another.

Thisbe arrives to the tomb first, but upon seeing a lion with teeth bloodied from a recent kill, she screams, drops her veil and runs the hell out of there. The lion meanders by the tomb, decides to chew on the veil for a bit as a post hunt snack, then takes off.

When Pyramus arrives he is mortified to find his lover’s veil torn and saturated in blood. Shaken and crestfallen, Pyramus commits suicide by throwing himself on his sword. Just a few moments later, Thisbe returns to the tomb to see if her lover has arrived. She finds the love of her life lying in a pool of his own blood. She mourns, takes the Roman’s sword and kills herself.

About sixteen hundred years later, a playwright from Stratford-on-Avon wrote the now fairly well-known play, Romeo & Juliet.

Sound familiar?


Every true artist is also a great thief.

Want to know the not so well-kept secret of creating work that matters, that will turn heads, that is truly sui generis?

Let everything in.

Read voraciously. (note: it doesn’t count if it’s a book in your field)

Go hiking.

Visit interesting art exhibitsespecially if it’s “not your thing”.

Wake up at 5:30am, sit in solitude outside in the twilight, and write whatever comes to mind using a pen in a notebook that no one will ever read.

Listen to Jay-Z, then turn on some Vivaldi.

Skip the movie and go see some local theatre.

Take long walks in weird places.

Learn how to make the perfect cup of coffee.

Attend a poetry reading.

Train for a race.

Don’t ever stay inside when the stars are kind enough to dance for you.

Go to a local cheese shop (no, not Whole Foods) & ask them to suggest something.

Go to a local wine shop and do the same.

During your next lunch break, walk downstairs with a camera (or your phone), stand still, look at the world and take a photo of what strikes you. Describe it in no more than four words.

Rent a movie produced before 1950.

Learn how to make your own pasta.

Read about how Henry Clay saved the Union, then pick up some of Tagore’s poetry.

Plan the adventure of a lifetime. Then go.

Read about the history of typography.

Draw something. Anything.

Find a restaurant with a cuisine that scares you, and invite someone to go and try it with you.

Go to an antique market and buy something you don’t need.

Spend your next Friday evening with someone who doesn’t do anything remotely similar to what you do.

Take a train when a plane would be much more efficient.

Create a piece of art.

Throw up your hands in places you shouldn’t.


Every great piece of work is only an amalgamation of other work and inspiration filtered through the mind of the artist creating it.

Take inspiration from anywhere you can find it. Then imbue it into the fiber of your next project proposal or fundraising spec or development sprint or speaking gig or preso to the marketing team.

And once you have, do it again.


Your Fellow Misfit,



Ps – From August 16th until sometime in early 2014, I will be racing around 6 continents on The Life and Times of a Remarkable Misfit book tour. I’m looking for misfits around the world that would be interested in hosting a Misfit book event in their town, city, village or underground bunker. If you’re interested and would like the Misfits and I to rock up in your town, please check out Jessie’s blog post over on the Misfit blog, you can sign up there.


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