Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

Read in September 2016

Rating 8/10

This book gives a quick start into sharing creative work – no matter what it is. If you want to connect with people through your creativity, or just want to learn a new skill in front of others, this book gives lots of inspiration from the authors own experience and from famous writers and artists. I found it to be a quick read that inspires me to show more of what I'm doing and to connect with people on this basis.

My notes from the book

You don’t really find an audience for your work; they find you. But it’s not enough to be good. In order to be found, you have to be findable. I think there’s an easy way of putting your work out there and making it discoverable while you’re focused on getting really good at what you do.

Brian Eno refers to “scenius.” Under this model, great ideas are often birthed by a group of creative individuals—artists, curators, thinkers, theorists, and other tastemakers—who make up an “ecology of talent.”

Creativity is always, in some sense, a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds.

Being a valuable part of a scenius is not necessarily about how smart or talented you are, but about what you have to contribute—the ideas you share, the quality of the connections you make, and the conversations you start.

We can stop asking what others can do for us, and start asking what we can do for others.

Because they have little to lose, amateurs are willing to try anything and share the results.

“You can move from mediocre to good in increments. The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something.” – Clay Shirky

David Foster Wallace said that he thought good nonfiction was a chance to “watch somebody reasonably bright but also reasonably average pay far closer attention and think at far more length about all sorts of different stuff than most of us have a chance to in our daily lives.”

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.

Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you.

Talk about the things you love. Your voice will follow.

If your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.

“Remembering that 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.” – Steve Jobs

“A lot of people are so used to just seeing the outcome of work. They never see the side of the work you go through to produce the outcome.” – Michael Jackson

Human beings are interested in other human beings and what other human beings do.

“By putting things out there, consistently, you can form a relationship with your customers. It allows them to see the person behind the products.”

By letting go of our egos and sharing our process, we allow for the possibility of people having an ongoing connection with us and our work, which helps us move more of our product.

“In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen—really seen.” —Brené Brown

Become a documentarian of what you do.

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. This isn’t about making art, it’s about simply keeping track of what’s going on around you.

“Put yourself, and your work, out there every day, and you’ll start meeting some amazing people.” — Bobby Solomon

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. “Sometimes you don’t always know what you’ve got,”

“The Internet is a copy machine” – Kevin Kelly.

Flow is the feed. Stock is the durable stuff. Maintain your flow while working on your stock in the background.

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.

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.

“Whatever we say, we’re always talking about ourselves.” — Alison Bechdel

“The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.” — Annie Dillard

Think about what you can share from your process that would inform the people you’re trying to reach. Have you learned a craft? What are your techniques? Are you skilled at using certain tools and materials? What kind of knowledge comes along with your job?

Teaching people doesn’t subtract value from what you do, it actually adds to it. When you teach someone how to do your work, you are, in effect, generating more interest in your work. People feel closer to your work because you’re letting them in on what you know.

At some point, they didn’t get the memo that the world owes none of us anything.

If you want fans, you have to be a fan first. If you want to be accepted by a community, you have to first be a good citizen of that community.

Many people waste time and energy trying to make connections instead of getting good at what they do, when “being good at things is the only thing that earns you clout or connections.”

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.

“Whatever excites you, go do it. Whatever drains you, stop doing it.” — Derek Sivers

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. Of course, The Vampire Test works on many things in our lives, not just people—you can apply it to jobs, hobbies, places, etc.

“It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others.” — Susan Sontag

“Compulsive avoidance of embarrassment is a form of suicide.” – Colin Marshall

He would do a poetry reading and afterward some guy would come up to him and say, “Your poem changed my life, man!” And John would say, “Oh, thanks. Want to buy a book? It’s five dollars.” And the guy would take the book, hand it back to John, and say, “Nah, that’s okay.”

At some point, you have to switch from saying “yes” a lot to saying “no” a lot.

“The biggest problem of success is that the world conspires to stop you doing the thing that you do, because you are successful,” writes author Neil Gaiman. “There was a day when I looked up and realised that I had become someone who professionally replied to email, and who wrote as a hobby.

You just have to be as generous as you can, but selfish enough to get your work done.

“Work is never finished, only abandoned.” — Paul Valéry

Instead of taking a break in between projects, waiting for feedback, and worrying about what’s next, use the end of one project to light up the next one.

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.

“The minute you stop wanting something you get it.” — Andy Warhol

“Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough,” – Alain de Botton

George Carlin, threw out his material every year and started from scratch. C.K. was scared to try it, but once he did, it set him free. “When you’re done telling jokes about airplanes and dogs, and you throw those away, what do you have left? You can only dig deeper. You start talking about your feelings and who you are. And then you do those jokes and they’re gone. You gotta dig deeper.”

When you throw out old work, what you’re really doing is making room for new work.

Look for something new to learn, and when you find it, dedicate yourself to learning it out in the open.