I recently finished reading “Show Your Work!” book by Austin Kleon. I liked it and I found many useful ideas in it. Here, I will share what I liked most in this book.
Book page on Goodreads: Show Your Work!.
I like the following alluring quote from the book which talks about the benefits of showing your work:
Imagine if your next boss didn’t have to read your résumé because he already reads your blog. Imagine being a student and getting your first gig based on a school project you posted online. Imagine losing your job but having a social network of people familiar with your work and ready to help you find a new one. Imagine turning a side project or a hobby into your profession because you had a following that could support you.
Or imagine something simpler and just as satisfying: spending the majority of your time, energy, and attention practicing a craft, learning a trade, or running a business, while also allowing for the possibility that your work might attract a group of people who share your interests.
The book has 10 chapters; the title of each chapter is an advice related to showing your work.
1. You don’t have to be a genius.
Today it is the amateur—the enthusiast who pursues her work in the spirit of love, regardless of the potential for fame, money, or career —who often has the advantage over the professional. Amateurs are willing to try anything and share the results.
The world is changing at such a rapid rate that it’s turning us all into amateurs. Even for professionals, the best way to flourish is to retain an amateur’s spirit and embrace uncertainty and the unknown.
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. Find a scenius, pay attention to what others are sharing, and then start taking note of what they’re not sharing.
2. Think process, not product.
Today, by taking advantage of the Internet and social media, an artist can share the day-to-day stuff that goes on behind the scenes in her studio, not only the final product.
We’re not all artists or astronauts. A lot of us go about our work and feel like we have nothing to show for it at the end of the day. But whatever the nature of your work, there is an art to what you do, and there are people who would be interested in that art, if only you presented it to them in the right way.
Become a documentarian of what you do. Start a work journal: Write your thoughts down in a notebook, or speak them into an audio recorder. Keep a scrapbook. Take a lot of photographs of your work at different stages in your process. Shoot video of you working…
3. Share something small every day.
The form of what you share doesn’t matter. Your daily dispatch can be anything you want—a blog post, an email, a tweet, a YouTube video, etc.
Science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon once said that 90 percent of everything is crap. The same is true of our own work. The trouble is, we don’t always know what’s good and what sucks. That’s why it’s important to get things in front of others and see how they react.
Social networks are great, but they come and go; nothing beats owning your own space online.
One little blog post is nothing on its own, but publish a thousand blog posts over a decade, and it turns into your life’s work.
4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities.
The problem with hoarding is you end up living off your reserves. Eventually, you’ll become stale. If you give away everything you have, you are left with nothing. This forces you to look, to be aware, to replenish. . . . Somehow the more you give away, the more comes back to you.
All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste but there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not…
5. Tell good stories.
Artists love to trot out the tired line, “My work speaks for itself,” but the truth is, our work doesn’t speak for itself. 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 and what they understand about your work, and how people feel and what they understand about your work effects how they value it.
Emma Coats, a former storyboard artist at Pixar, outlined the basic structure of a fairy tale as a kind of Mad Lib that you can fill in with your own elements: “Once upon a time, there was____. Every day, __. One day, __. Because of that, __. Because of that, __. Until finally, ____.” Pick your favorite story and try to fill in the blanks. It’s striking how often it works.
6. Teach what you know.
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. As blogger Kathy Sierra says, “Make people better at something they want to be better at.”
7. Don’t turn into human spam.
If you’re only pointing to your own stuff online, you’re doing it wrong. You have to be a connector.
Albini laments how many people waste time and energy trying to make connections instead of getting good at what they do…
Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love and you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff. It’s that simple.
I love meeting my online friends “IRL.” (IRL = in real life.) There’s never any small talk—we know all about one another and what one another does.
8. Learn to take a punch.
Now, I have been on the Internet a long time. I get a lot of emails from people who are, as far as I can tell, sad, awful, or completely insane. I have a pretty good mental firewall that filters what I let get to me.
9. Sell out.
Put a little virtual tip jar or a donate now button on your website. These links do well with a little bit of human copy, such as “Like this? Buy me a coffee.”
If you have work you want to attempt that requires some up-front capital, platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo make it easy to run fund-raising campaigns with tiered rewards for donors. It’s important to note that these platforms work best when you’ve already gathered a group of people who are into what you do.
When people become patrons, they feel, not altogether wrongly, that they should have some say in how their money is being used. It’s partly for this reason that my business model is still pretty old-fashioned: I make something and sell it for money.
I know people who 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, and then when they have something remarkable to share or sell, they send an email. You’d be amazed at how well the model works.
10. Stick around.
Blog-post prompts I got from the book:
Where do you get your inspiration? What sorts of things do you fill your head with? What do you read? Do you subscribe to anything? What sites do you visit on the Internet? What music do you listen to? What movies do you see? Do you look at art? What do you collect? What’s inside your scrapbook? What do you pin to the corkboard above your desk? What do you stick on your refrigerator? Who’s done work that you admire? Who do you steal ideas from? Do you have any heroes? Who do you follow online? Who are the practitioners you look up to in your field?