Book Review of Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered
I recently finished this book by Austin Kleon. When I say "finish" I mean I read the whole book. I buy and skim several books a month, I read until I pick up what the author is putting down. Most books don't keep my attention, they have a great thesis, but they should have been blog posts or essays. I really like Kleon's writing, he's genuine and very creative. I encourage you to read this entire book. It's short and you will get so much out of it.
This book is all about how to influence others by letting them steal from you, for people who hate the very idea of self promotion...hey that's me! Continue reading to review all my dictated notes.
Creativity is always...a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds
You don't really find an audience for your work, they find you. In order to be found, you have to be findable.
People who are findable, regardless of their profession, have built sharing into their routine.
Instead of maintaining absolute secrecy and hoarding their work, 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.
Instead of wasting their time networking, they're taking advantage of the network.
By generously sharing their ideas and their knowledge, they often gain an audience that they can then leverage when they need it.
"Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating." - John Cleese
1. You don't have to be a genius
Creativity is always a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds.
Amateurs a regular people who get obsessed by something and spend a lot of time thinking out loud about it. Sometimes, amateurs have more to teach us than experts because raw enthusiasm is contagious.
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 amateurs spirit and embrace uncertainty and the unknown.
Amateurs use whatever tools they can get their hands on and try to get their ideas into the world.
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 scene, pay attention to what others are sharing, and then start taking note of what they're not sharing. Be on the lookout for voids that you can fill with your own efforts.
Share what you love and the people who love the same things will find you.
In this day and age, if your work isn't online, it doesn't exist. If you want people to km now about the things you care about, you have to share.
Questions for a new tool:
2. Think process, not product
To clients, what matters is the workshop, product, experience. To you, what matters is the process: the experience of of shaping the the work, your artwork.
An artist must no longer toil in secrecy, keeping her ideas and her work under lock and key, waiting until she has a magnificent product to show for herself before she tries to connect with an audience. This made sense in the pre-digital age. Today, by taking advantage of the internet and social media, an artist can share whatever she wants. By sharing her day-to-day process, the thing she really cares about, she can can for a unique bond with her audience.
Human beings are interested in other human beings and what other human beings do.
By putting things out there, consistently, you can fork a relationship with your clients. They want to learn about the person behind the Extension programs.
Audiences not only want to see great work, they want to be creative and part of the creative process.
3. Share something small everyday
Social media sites are the perfect place to share daily content, updates. Don't worry about being on every platform; pick and choose based on what you do and the people you're trying to reach.
Don't be afraid to be an early adopter. Jump in on a new platform and see if there's something interesting you can do with it. If you can't find a good use for a platform, feel free to abandon it.
Don't show your lunch or your latte; show your work.
Don't say you don't have enough time. We're all busy, but we all get 24 hours in a day.
Find time by looking for it.
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.
Once you make sharing part of your daily routine, you'll notice themes and turned emerging in what you share.
4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities
We all love things that other people think are garbage, you have to have courage to keep loving your garbage, because what makes us unique is the diversity and breadth of our influences, the unique ways we mix up the parts of culture.
Celebrate the things you genuinely enjoy
Be open and honest about what you like is the best way to connect with people who like those things, too
5. Tell good stories
The stories you tell about the work you do has a a huge effect on how people feel and what they understand about your work. How people feel and what they understand about it your work affects how thwy value it.
Personal stories can make the complex more understandable, spark associations, and offer entry into things that might otherwise leave one cold.
Whether you realize it or not, you're already telling a story about your work.
This simple formula can be be applied to almost any type of work project: there's an initial problem, the work done to solve the problem, and the solution.
6. Teach what you know
Teaching doesn't mean instant competition. Just because you know the master's technique doesn't mean you're going to be able to emulate it right away.
Think about what you can share from your process that will inform the people you're trying to teach. 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?
The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to others.
Teaching doesn't subtract value from what you do, it actually adds to it. People feel closer to your work because you're letting them in on what you know.
7. Don't turn into human spam
People who will not shut up and listen are everywhere, and they exist in every profession. They don't want to pay their dues, they want their piece right here, right now. They don't want to listen to your ideas; they want to tell you theirs.
The experience of art is always a two-way street, incomplete without feedback. The artist hang out online and answer questions. They ask for reading recommendations. A chat with fans about the stuff they love.
If you want fans, you have to be a fan first. If you want to be excepted by community, you have to first be a good citizen of that community. If you're only pointing to your own stuff online, you're doing it wrong. You have to be a connector.
If you want to get, you have to give. If you want to be noticed, you have to notice.
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. If you want to be interesting, you have to be interested.
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.
8. Learn to take a punch
Fear is often just the imagination taking a wrong turn.
The more criticism you take, the more you realize it can't hurt you.
Every piece of criticism is an opportunity for new work. You can't control what sort of criticism you receive, but you can control how you react to it.
If you spend your life avoiding vulnerability, you and your work will never truly connect with other people.
9. Sell out
We need to get over the idea that touching money inherently corrupts creativity
Don't be jealous when the people you like do well – celebrate their victory as if it's your own
If people like what you do, they'll pay for it
If you have work you want to attempt that require some upfront capital, platforms like kick starter and indigo go make it easy to run fundraising 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.
Asking for money in return for your work is a leap you want to take only when you feel confident that you're putting work into the world that you think is truly worth something
Even if you don't have anything to sell right now you should always be collecting email addresses from people who come across your work and want to stay in touch
A life of creativity is all about change – moving forward, taking chances, exploring new frontiers. The real risk is not changing.
Pay your dues. Keep yourself busy. Think bigger. Expand your audience. Don't handi-cap yourself in the name of not "selling out." Try new things.
If an opportunity comes along that will allow you to do more of the kind of work you want to do, say yes.
If an opportunity comes along that would mean more money, but less of the kind of work you want to do, say no.
As a human being, you have a finite amount of time and attention. At some point, you have to switch from saying "yes" a lot to saying "no" a lot.
You have to be as generous as you can, but selfish enough to get your work done.
10. Stick around
The people who get what they're after are very often the ones just stick around long enough. It's very important not to quit prematurely.
"Work is never finished, only abandoned." - Paul Valéry
You can't count on success; you can only leave open the possibility for it, and be ready to jump on and take the ride when it comes for you.
A successful or failed project is no guarantee of another success or failure. Whether you've just one big or lost big, you still have to face the question "what's next?"
Your last book isn't going to write your next one. You're only as good as your last at bat.
You avoid stalling out in your career by never losing momentum. 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.
When you feel you've learned whatever there is to learn from what you're doing, it's time to change course and find something new to learn you can move forward.
You can't be content with mastery; you have to push yourself to become a student again.
When you get rid of old material, you push yourself further and come up with something better. When you throw out old work, what you're really doing is making room for new work. You have to have the Kurds to get rid of work and rethink things completely. You never really lose all the work, lessons that you've learned from it will seep into what you do next.
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 that others can learn along with you. Show your work, and when the right people show up, they close attention to them, because of how they want to show you.
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Paul Hill, Ph.D.
I design, plan, and evaluate economic development programs for Utah State University.
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