Ten years ago, I was working on the book proposal for Steal Like An Artist. Next year we’re releasing a 10th anniversary edition, so I’ve been digging in my archive for inspiration while writing the afterword.
The “archive” in this case is just a banker’s box. Most of the book was written fast an the computer, so there’s not as much fun material (false starts, deleted scenes, etc.) as there is when you open the boxes for the other books.
Most interesting might be the gigantic stack of index cards, many of which appear in the back of the book. (It was funny to see “Gesamtkunstwerk” scribbled on this card, as the word is in the zeitgeist thanks to this review.)
The index cards serve to show just how long I’ve been obsessed with the ideas I’m still writing about. (For example, there was a card about centrifugal books.) Steal was a book that tried to cover a lot of ground with very few pages, and there were so many seeds tossed in there that I was able to grow entire books out of some of them.
It makes me laugh to see how simple the illustrations are. (I got a lot of mileage out of Photoshop’s “invert” function.) I really wanted the book to just feel like a fancy zine.
I’ve had a decade now of people asking what “font” I use. Everything was just marker on typing paper. (“But what kind of typing paper?” my friend joked on Instagram.)
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My favorite object in the box is the “dummy” I made for my editor, Bruce Tracy, by printing out a dust jacket for a book with the same trim size. (The Cute Manifesto by James Kochalka.) The legend is that design had a few options in the cover meeting and the late Peter Workman pointed at my dummy and said “that one.”
In the old days, my publisher would send me reprint notices on a postcard. (They stopped at the 10th printing. I think the book has gone through at least two dozen reprintings at this point.)
As for the book itself, it doesn’t even feel like I really wrote the thing. There are more years now between me and the me who wrote the book than there was between the me who wrote the book and the 19-year-old me he was writing it for. Time to finish up this afterword, put the archive back on the shelf, and write something new…