My husband, Ben, recently borrowed the book Steal Like an Artist from a co-worker. I've seen it around but hadn't had a chance to read it so I spent one particularly overly-caffeinated evening reading it cover to cover (super digestible). Author Austin Kleon prefaces the book as advice he'd give to his 19-year old self stepping out into the creative world. The book is broken into ten small chapters entitled things like : "Don't wait until you know who you are to get started" and "Do good work and share it with people" and of course, "Steal like an artist."
In chapter one, Kleon suggests finding your "creative lineage" and offers the following exercise : name one artist that you really love and study everything about them. Devour the work that they created, analyze what it is that attracts you. And then find three people who influenced them and repeat. Consume, study, analyze and apply what you've absorbed to your own work. Graft yourself as a branch on that family tree.
"See yourself as park of a creative lineage will help you feel less alone as you start making your own stuff." -kleon
This was a good reminder to root myself. An encouragement to not only brushing up on a few creative giants from the past, but also to take the time to study talented contemporaries. The world has never been this small -- we are exposed to more work on a daily basis than ever before but rarely do we take the time to go beyond a few pins on pinterest or research an individual beyond their instagram feed. His ultimate point is that it's nearly impossible to steal -- once you borrow what you love it's impossible to keep your fingerprints off it (thus, it becomes your own).
you can follow Austin's work @austinkleon