Summary - Show Your Work


As the title suggests, it's a book that teaches the reader the art of showing your work to the world. The author, Austin Kleon, shares ten ways to share your creativity and get discovered.

You don't have to be a genius#

Creative work does not require you to be a genius. You don't have to be Mozart or Picasso or Einstein. Instead of being genius, we can be a "scenius". Under this model, a group of individuals helps each other to produce creative works. They share their knowledge and gain knowledge from others. They contribute.

Be an amateur. People are afraid of getting revealed as an amateur, but one should strive to have an amateur mindset. An amateur is very enthusiastic and has tremendous love for their work without minding any fame or money. Amateurs can explore vast things, but professionals have only a few things on their minds. Being an amateur is not a bad thing but an opportunity where they can learn and explore new things and make mistakes on the way. They are a lifelong learner.

To find your voice, talk about the things you love. Your voice will follow.

Read obituaries. Reading about the achievements and works of people who died will help you to get up and start doing something.

Think process, not product#

Artists who grew up in the pre-digital age find sharing their process with others daunting as it could be messy and often contain their mistakes. But people who see their products also want to know the artists' process. Because they want to connect. By sharing the process, you are improving the relationship with your customers. You can start by documenting or recording your process every day. By doing this, you can see your progress, and when you are ready to share, you will have a surplus of content.

Share something small every day#

A daily dispatch of small content is better than your resume or portfolio because it shows what we're working on right now. Once a day, after the completion of work, we should take something small from our documentation and share it with the world. If you are in the early stages, share your ideas and influences. If you are in the middle, write about the progress or how you are handling certain problems. A daily dispatch can be in the form of a blog, video, or pictures and can be shared on social media.

Social media websites work like a public notebooks. People can think loud on this and let others think back and get some feedback or criticism. The important thing about keeping a notebook is that you can revisit them later. You can see patterns and themes in your content. Once you have enough patterns, you can combine them to make something more significant.

Build a good domain name. If you don't have a domain registered, you should get one. It could be your name or an alias. It would be best if you had a place that can't be taken away from you.

Open up your cabinet of curiosities#

Be open and honest about what you like. It can help you connect with people who have similar tastes. Share other people's work that you like. Always credit the person of the work you share. If you are not crediting, then you are robbing both the creator and the people with whom you are sharing since they can't see more of the work they find interesting. Make sure to include a hyperlink for attribution since people are lazy and 99.9% of the time won't google the name.

Tell good stories#

Work does not speak for itself. You must formulate a proper structure for the story you want to tell to make people listen. The stories you tell about the work greatly impact how they value it. When explaining your work, your story should be different for a kindergartner, a senior citizen, and everybody in between. Explain your story honestly and humbly with dignity and self-respect.

  • If your story is not finished, then set it up in three acts -
    • The Past - what have you done, how you came to want it, and what you have done so far to get it
    • The Present - where are you now
    • The future - where are you going, and how exactly the person you're telling can help you get there?

The storytelling skill takes a lifetime to master. Study some great stories and find some of your own.

Teach what you know#

Share your trade secrets. The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to others. Share your reading list. Create some tutorials and post them online. Teaching increases the value in what you do. It makes you better at your work and also generates more interest.

Don't turn into human spam#

If you want to be noticed, you have to notice. If you want to be interesting, you have to be interested. Shut up and listen once in a while. Be considerate. Don't turn into human spam. Be an open node. Don't waste people's time. The vampire test - If after hanging out with someone makes you feel worn out and depleted, then that person is a vampire. Don't hang out with vampires.

Find your real peers - the people who share your obsessions, the people who share a similar mission to you, and the people with whom you share mutual respect. There will be only a handful of them, but they're very important. Do what you can to nurture your relationship with them. Call them and share your secrets with them.

Learn to take a punch#

Don't be afraid of criticism of your work. Bad criticism is not the end of the world. Take a deep breath and accept whatever comes. The more criticism you take, the more you realize it can't hurt you. Also, don't feed the trolls.

Sell out#

Some of our most meaningful and cherished artifacts are made for money. Don't be jealous when the people you like do when - celebrate their victory as if it's your own. When audience starts gathering for the works, you may eventually want to turn them into patrons. One way is to simply ask for donation.

Keep a mailing list. Even if you are not selling anything right now, you should be collecting email addresses who come across your work and want to stay in touch. Email is decades old, and it's nowhere close to being dead. People run multimillion-dollar businesses off of their mailing lists.

  • The model is very simple:
    • They give away great stuff on their sites.
    • They collect emails.
    • They send an email when they have something remarkable to share or sell.

You'd be amazed at how well the model works. You have to be as generous as you can but selfish enough to get your work done.

Stick around#

Every career is full of ups and downs. The people who get what they want are very often who stick around long enough. Whenever you finish something, start another instead of taking a break in between. Ask yourself what you have missed, could've done better, or couldn't get to, and jump right into the next project. Take breaks to recharge yourself by exercising, connecting with nature, and commuting. It's important to separate your work from the rest of your life. When you feel like you have mastered everything you are doing, it's time to change course. Go back to chapter one and become an amateur. Dedicate yourself to learning in the open. Document your progress and share as you go.