Show Your Work! – Austin Kleon

ā›° What It’s About

How to share your work and grow an online presence.

šŸ” Key Takeaways

  • Don’t worry about career/money. Share what you love, you have nothing to lose.
  • People enjoy seeing creative processes. Share your work rather than just the finished product.
  • Share something about your each day that someone could find helpful, interesting or entertaining. Create a personal website to store your work.
  • Share influences, and always give proper credit.
  • Become a better storyteller, think about structure.
  • Share your knowledge and tips. It will generate interest in your work and feedback.
  • Take an active interest in other people’s work. Don’t become human spam. Decide what is worth interacting with using the Vampire Test.
  • React positively to constructive criticism, but don’t engage with trolls.
  • Don’t let lack of progress dissuade you from working. Success is often gained only by sticking things out in the long run.

šŸ§  Thoughts

What I Liked About It

Clear, often practical instructions on how best to share your work.

What I Didn’t Like About It

Book is short and could be seen to lack depth. Make up with supplementary reading.

Who Should Read This Book?

Anyone who wants to grow their online presence and for their work to reach a larger audience. I think it would be especially useful to people who have a lot of work in progress, perhaps lacking finished products they’re completely satisfied with.

Buy the book, Author website

šŸ“š Chapter notes

1: You Don’t Have to Be a Genius

Concept of Scenius: Great things, even if usually attributed to one person, are often the result of group effort (can be interpreted as wide as simply being influenced by another’s work). Think of contributing in terms of a community. Internet makes it easy to contribute to scenius.

Be An Amateur: Amateurs create out of passion, have little to lose. Not afraid to make mistakes.

“The Best way to get started on the path to sharing your work is to think about what you want to learn, and make a commitment to learning it in front of others… Don’t worry, for now, about how you’ll make money or a career off it… Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you.”

“The only way to find your voice is to use it.”

Quote from Steve jobs: Remembering I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.

2: Think Process, Not Product

Due to the internet/social media, you can show your work (or rather, lack of) at any stage in the process. People like seeing creative processes. Become a documentarian of what you do.

“How can you share your work even if you have nothing to show? The first step is to scoop up the scraps and residue of your process and shape them into some interesting bit of media you can share.”

3: Share Something Small Every Day

“Once a day… find one little piece of your process that you can share. Where you are in that process will determine what that piece is. If you’re in the very early stages, share your influences and what’s inspiring you. If you’re in the middle of executing a project, write about your methods or share works in progress. If you’ve just completed a project, show the final product, share scraps from the cutting-room floor, or write about what you learned.” You can always find time for this if you look for it.

Can be in the form, of tweet, blog posts, YouTube clip etc etc. Don’t worry about it being perfect, learn from it.

Don’t be afraid to jump onto a new platform to see if you can use it to your advantage.

“The act of sharing is one of generosity – you’re putting something out there because you think it might be helpful or entertaining to someone on the other side of the screen”

Test: If unsure about post, put it away for 24 hours and look again. Could someone find it helpful, or entertaining?

Create stock, content that will still be useful to someone in a couple months for instance.

Create personal website. A location where people can always find you or your work.

4: Open Up Your Cabinet of Curiosities

Influences are always worth sharing. They help tell people who you are.

“If you share the work of others, it’s your duty to ensure that the creators of that work get proper credit.”

Always link to creator’s website. Don’t share things you can’t properly credit.

5: Tell Good Stories

“Human beings want to know where things came from, how they were made, and who made them. The stories you tell about the work you do have a huge effect on how people feel what they understand about your work, and how people feel and what they understand about your work affects how they value.”

“Personal stories can make the the complex more tangible, spark associations, and offer entry into things that otherwise might leave one cold.”

“If you want to be more effective when sharing yourself and your work, you need to become a better storyteller. You need to know what a good story is and how to tell one.”

Structure: First act is past, second is present, third is future.

Bios: Around two sentences, short and sweet. Don’t use adjectives, stick to facts.

6: Teach What You Know (Share Your Trade Secrets)

What have you learned in your process than could be shared with the people you’re trying to reach?

“The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to others. Share your reading list. Point to helpful reference materials. Create some tutorials and post them online. Use pictures, words, and video. Take people step-by-step through part of your process.”

“When you teach someone how to do your work, you are, in effect, generating more interest in your work.”

When you share your work/knowledge, you receive an education in return through feedback.

7: Don’t Turn Into Human Spam

You have to take an active interest in other’s work in the field. E.g. writers who want to get published in journals they don’t bother to read are disadvantaged.

Don’t be human spam: people who only want to be heard, and don’t listen. Interested only in their own work, they just want fans, not collaborators.

Good work isn’t created in a vacuum, and creating art is a two-way experience incomplete without feedback.

Creators can hang out online and answer questions, ask for reading recommendations, or simply chat about stuff they love.

“If you want fans, you have to be a fan first. If you want to be accepted by a community, you first have to be a good citizen of that community. If you’re only pointing to your own stuff online, you’re doing it wrong.”

“If you want followers, be someone worth following”. What makes you interesting?

“Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love and you’ll attract people who love that sort of stuff. It’s that simple”

On who you interact with

The Vampire Test: “If, after hanging out with someone you feel worn out and depleted, that person is a vampire. If, after hanging out with someone you still feel full of energy, that person is not a vampire.” Allow people to be parts of your life accordingly. The same test can be applied to jobs, hobbies, places etc.

8: Learn to Take a Punch

How to take punches:

Relax and breathe. Fear is often the imagination taking a bad turn. Bad criticism is not the end of the world. Recommends meditation.

Strengthen your neck. The more punches you take, the better you’ll be at taking them.

Roll with the punches. Good criticism is an opportunity for growth. You can’t control what criticism you receive, but you can control how you react.

Protect your vulnerable areas. If you have work that is too sensitive to you to be exposed to criticism, keep it hidden. But remember – “Compulsive avoidance of embarrassment is a form of suicide” – Colin Marshall

Keep your balance. Your work is something you do, not who you are. Good criticism of it is not a critique of yourself.

Don’t feed the trolls. Be wary of feedback from people who care neither about you, nor your work/field. **”A troll is a person who isn’t interested in improving your work, only provoking you with hateful, aggressive, or upsetting talk. You will gain nothing by engaging with these people. Don’t feed them, and they’ll usually go away.” Block trolls and delete their comments.

9: Sell Out

When an audience gathers for your work, consider turning them into patrons. Add links, donate buttons. Human copy does well here, “buy me a coffee”.

Only do this when you truly believe your work is worth something monetary.

Make and keep adding to a mailing list. An email cuts to people better than hoping they see your posts.

10: Stick Around

Often succeeding in a field is due to sticking it out long enough. Don’t let lack of progress make you give up.

Successful creators are usually always working, using their past projects as inspiration and learning from them.

“Just do the work that’s in front of you, and when it’s finished, ask yourself what you missed, what you could’ve done better, or what you couldn’t get to, and jump right into the next project.”

However, always take ‘sabbaticals’, time off work to let your mind wander. For instance, when commuting, exercising, or in nature.

“Look for something new to learn, and when you find it, dedicate yourself to learning it out in the open. Document your progress and share as you go so others can learn along with you. Show your work, and when the right people show up, pay close attention to them, because they’ll have lot to show you.”

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