Show Your Work! : 10 Ways to Share your Creativity and Get Discovered – Austin Kleon
Thoughts: In Show Your Work, Austin Kleon exhorts the reader to build an audience and get their work noticed by documenting and sharing the process behind any creative work they’re doing. The book takes the form of a series of quotes and anecdotes, amounting to so many versions of successful person X did/does thing Y, so if you do thing Y, you’ll likely be more successful too, and while I think Kleon’s advice generally holds (if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have this website), I would have appreciated it had he spent some time discussing non-anecdotal evidence that his suggested techniques will actually help the book’s average reader. Short and with some good ideas, Show Your Work is nevertheless more motivational than educational.
(The notes below are not a summary of the book, but rather raw notes - whatever I thought, at the time, might be worth remembering. I read this as an e-book, so page numbers are as they appeared in the app I used, Libby.)
Kleon, Austin. 2014. Show Your Work! : 10 Ways to Share your Creativity and Get Discovered. Workman.
1. You Don’t Have to Be a Genius.
- 19: Kleon suggests starting each morning by reading obituaries. “Reading about people who are dead now and did things with their lives makes me want to get up and do something decent with mine. Thinking about death every morning makes me want to live.”
2. Think Process, Not Product.
- 25-26: Kleon states that it’s a good idea to document your work. He suggests a few ways to do this: keeping a notebook, taking photographs of your work at different stages, filming yourself working. “This isn’t about making art, it’s about simply keeping track of what’s going on around you.”
3. Share Something Small Everyday.
- 28: if you’ve been documenting your work, you can tap this documentation at the end of the day to share on social media.
- 30-31: Rather than answering the questions “How are you feeling?” or “What’s on your mind?” (as Facebook asks), Kleon suggests “What are you working on?” as the best question to guide what gets shared to social media.
- 35: Kleon highlights Robin Sloan’s ideas of stock and flow. Stock is the large projects that cause new fans to find your work, whereas flow is the stream of content that reminds your current fans that you exist and keeps them engaged. The easiest way to balance stock and flow, Kleon suggests, is by working towards stock projects while documenting and sharing your work as you go.
4. Open Up Your Cabinet of Curiosities.
- 42: Kleon suggests that “your influences are all worth sharing because they clue people in to who you are and what you do—sometimes even more than your own work.” Toward this end, he suggests sharing what you read, what music you listen to, what you subscribe to, what you collect, what art you look at, who inspires you… among many others.
- 46-47: if you share something you find interesting, be sure to provide an attribution, not only to the item in itself, but to how you came across it. One of the ways you can be most useful to others is by leaving trails of breadcrumbs towards other places they can find interesting things.
5. Tell Good Stories.
6. Teach What You Know.
- 62: Think of your target market, the people you’re trying to reach. What bits of your process would they find informative (perhaps what tools do you use, what workflow/process, what “recipes”, what’s your “cookbook”)? Share those things.
- 63: this is particularly relevant if you’re learning something: what is your reading list; what reference materials did you find useful? Can you create a tutorial for a thing that you struggled to figure out?
7. Don’t Turn Into Human Spam.
- 67: it’s important not only to share your own things, but also to share/promote others’ things. It’s important to be a participant in a community you want to become involved in; “If you want fans, you have to be a fan first.”
8. Learn to Take a Punch.
- 78- : if you put lots of work out there, you’ll start receiving more feedback and criticism. Don’t take it personally; if it’s coming from people who care about you and your work, pay attention to it as any such criticism should be constructive, but if it’s coming from trolls, just ignore it.
9. Sell Out.
- 84: “Everybody says they want artists to make money, and then when they do, everybody hates them for it”
- 86-87: “Beware of selling the things that you love: When people are asked to get out their wallets, you find out how much they really value what you do.”
10. Stick Around.
- 96: “Author Ernest Hemingway would stop in the middle of a sentence at the end of his day’s work so he knew where to start in the morning.”
- j: this is part of why I find pomodoros work! if you start working on a new thing three minutes before the end of a pomodoro, and then take a break, you start the next pomodoro with the wind at your back.
- j: is this the proper zeigarnik effect?
- 98: Kleon talks about the benefits of taking sabbaticals - one year off every 7 years - on creative work: often, thought that happens during these breaks can fuel work in the years that follow.
- j: cf. think weeks/days, but sabbaticals take the idea to the extreme
- 100: Kleon suggests that, if you feel you’re approaching mastery, it’s time to pick a new field and become a student again. Prevents your thinking from becoming stale. “Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough” -Alain de Botton
Posted: Sep 19, 2021. Last updated: Sep 19, 2021.