Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered
Kleon, Austin. Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered (English Edition). Workman Publishing Company, 2014. Kindle file.
A New Way of Operating
Almost all of the people I look up to and try to steal from today, regardless of their profession, have built sharing into their
they’re open about what they’re working on, and they’re consistently posting bits and pieces of their work, their ideas, and what they’re learning online.
share your process
turning a side project or a hobby into your profession because you had a following that could support you.
1. You Don’t Have to Be a Genius.
musician Brian Eno
refers to as “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.
today it is the amateur—the enthusiast who pursues her work in the spirit of love (in French, the word means “lover”), regardless of the potential for fame, money, or career—who often has the
advantage over the professional. Because they have little to lose, amateurs are willing to try anything and share the results.
“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities,” said Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki. “In the expert’s mind, there are few.”
“The stupidest possible creative act is still a creative act,” writes Clay Shirky
Amateurs might lack formal training, but they’re all lifelong learners,
ourselves. “I saw the Sex Pistols,” said New Order frontman Bernard Sumner. “They were terrible. . . . I wanted to get up and be terrible with them.” Raw enthusiasm is contagious.
The world is changing at such a rapid rate that it’s turning us all into amateurs.
When Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke was asked what he thought his greatest strength was, he answered, “That I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“I’m an artist, man,” said John Lennon. “Give me a tuba, and I’ll get you something out of it.”
Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you.
“Mr. Ebert writes as if it were a matter of life and
death,” wrote journalist Janet Maslin, “because it is.” Ebert was blogging because he had to blog—because it was a matter of being heard, or not being heard. A matter of existing or not existing.
but in this day and age, if your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.
“Remembering that 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 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
When George Lucas was a teenager, he almost died in a car accident. He decided “every day now is an extra day,” dedicated himself to film, and went on to direct Star Wars.
2. Think Process, Not Product.
“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
As in all kinds of work, there is a distinction between the painter’s process, and the products of her process.
By sharing her day-to-day process—the thing she really cares about—she can form a unique bond with her audience.
“People really do want to see how the sausage gets made.”
Dan Provost and Tom Gerhardt put it in their book on entrepreneurship, It Will Be Exhilarating.
It allows them to see the person behind the products.”
3. Share Something Small Everyday.
Don’t show your lunch or your latte; show your work.
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.
There’s a big, big difference between sharing and over-sharing.
Ask yourself, “Is this helpful? Is it entertaining? Is it something I’d be comfortable with my boss or my mother seeing?”
The save as draft button is like a prophylactic—it might not feel as good in the moment, but you’ll be glad you used it in the morning.
You can turn your flow into stock. For example, a lot of the ideas in this book started out as tweets, which then became blog posts, which then became book chapters. Small things, over time, can get big.
Don’t think of your website as a self-promotion machine, think of it as a self-invention machine. Online, you can become the person you really want to be.
4. Open Up Your Cabinet of Curiosities.
“I’m basically a curator,” says the writer and former bookseller Jonathan Lethem.
“Making books has always felt very connected to my bookselling experience, that of wanting to draw people’s attention to things that I liked, to shape things that I liked into new shapes.”
“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste,” says public radio personality Ira Glass.
More than 400 years ago, Michel de Montaigne, in his essay “On Experience,” wrote, “In my opinion, the most ordinary things, the most common and familiar, if we could see them in their true light, would turn out to be the grandest miracles . . . and the most marvelous examples.”
All it takes to uncover hidden gems is a clear eye, an open mind, and a willingness to search for inspiration in places other people aren’t willing or able to go.
“Do what you do best and link to the rest.” —Jeff Jarvis
If you share the work of others, it’s your duty to make sure that the creators of that work get proper credit.
5. Tell Good Stories.
Art forgery is a strange phenomenon. “You might think that the pleasure you get from a painting depends on its color and its shape and its pattern,” says psychology professor Paul Bloom. “And if that’s right, it shouldn’t matter whether it’s an original or a forgery.” But our brains don’t work that way. “When shown an object, or given a food, or shown a face, people’s assessment of it—how much they like it, how valuable it is—is deeply affected by what you tell them about it.”
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.
“‘ The cat sat on a mat’ is not a story. ‘The cat sat on the dog’s mat’ is a story.” —John le Carré
You should be able to explain your work to a kindergartner, a senior citizen, and everybody in between.
7. Don’t Turn Into Human Spam.
Stop worrying about how many people follow you online and start worrying about the quality of people who follow you.
If you want followers, be someone worth following.
It is actually true that life is all about “who you know.” But who you know is largely dependent on who you are and what you do, and the people you know can’t do
“Follow me back?” is the saddest question on the Internet.
“Whatever excites you, go do it. Whatever drains you, stop doing it.” —Derek Sivers
8. Learn to Take a Punch.
“I ain’t going to give up.
The way to be able to take a punch is to practice getting hit a lot. Put out a lot of work.
Every piece of criticism is an opportunity for new work.
A troll is a person who isn’t interested in improving your work, only provoking you with hateful, aggressive, or upsetting talk.
“There’s never a space under paintings in a gallery where someone writes their opinion,” says cartoonist Natalie Dee.
9. Sell Out.
Paul McCartney has said that he and John Lennon used to sit down before a Beatles songwriting session and say, “Now, let’s write a swimming pool.”
The musician Amanda Palmer has had wild success turning her audience into patrons: After showing
her work, sharing her music freely, and cultivating relationships with her fans, she asked for $ 100,000 from them to help record her next album. They gave her more than a million dollars.
Don’t hobble yourself in the name of “keeping it real,” or “not selling out.”
“Above all, recognize that if you have had success, you have also had luck—and with luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to your gods. You owe a debt to the unlucky.” —Michael Lewis
10. Stick Around.
“If you want a happy ending,” actor Orson Welles wrote, “that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”
“Work is never finished, only abandoned.” —Paul Valéry
Whether you’ve just won big or lost big, you still have to face the question “What’s next?”
Director Woody Allen has averaged a film a year for more than 40 years because he never takes time off: The day he finishes editing a film is the day he starts writing the script for the next.
use the end of one project to light up the next one.
“Whenever Picasso learned how to do something, he abandoned it.” —Milton Glaser
You have to have the courage to get rid of work and rethink things completely.