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Book:  Show Your Work

Author:  Austin Kleon

Purchase:  Print eBook

Citation:  Kleon, A. (2014). Show your work! : 10 ways to share your creativity and get discovered. New York, NY: Workman Publishing Company.

Three Big Takeaways:
  1. Almost all of the people I look up to and try to steal from have built sharing into their routine. These people aren't schmoozing at cocktail parties; they're too busy for that. They're cranking away in their studios, their laboratories, their offices, but instead of maintaining absolute secrecy and hoarding their work, they're open about what they're working on and they're consistently posting bits of pieces of their work 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 leverage when they need it - for fellowship, feedback, or patronage. (pg. 2)

  2. Imagine if your next boss didn't have to read your resume 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 hobby into a 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 allowing for the possibility that your work might attract a group of people who share your interests. All you have to do is show your work. (pg. 3)

  3. 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. Absolutely everything good that has happened in my career can be traced back to my blog. My books, my speaking gigs - they all exist because I have my own little piece of turf on the internet. (pg. 66)​


Other Key Ideas:

Steve Martin famously says, "Be so good they can't ignore you." If you just focus on getting really good, Martin says, people will come to you. I happen to agree: 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. (pg. 1)

Don't worry about everything you post being perfect. Theodore Sturgeon once said that 90 percent of everything is crap. 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. And don't say you don't have enough time. We're all busy, but we get 24 hours a day. You need to look for free time. You find it in the cracks between the big stuff - your commute, your lunch break, the few hours after your kids go to bed. You might have to miss an episode of your favorite TV show, you might have to miss an hour of sleep, but you can find the time if you look for it. (pg. 53)

If you're unsure about whether to share something, let it sit for 24 hours. Put it in a drawer and walk out the door. The next day ask yourself "Is this helpful? Is it entertaining?" There's nothing wrong with saving things for later. The "save as draft" button may not feel good in the moment, but you'll be glad you used it in the morning. (pg. 59)

If you share the work of others, it's your duty to make sure that the creators of that work get proper credit. Crediting your work in our copy-and-paste age of reblogs and retweets can seem like a futile effort, but it's worth it, and it's the right thing to do. You should always share the work of others as if it were your own, treating it with respect and care. Online, the most important form of attribution is a hyperlink pointing back to the website of the creator of the work. This sends people who come across the work back to the original source. The number one rule on the internet: People are lazy. If you don't include a link, no one can click it. Attribution without a link online borders on useless: 99.9 percent of people are not going to bother Googling someone's name. (pg. 84)

The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to others. Share your reading list. Point to helpful resource materials. Create some tutorials and post them online. Blogger Kathy Sierra says, "Make people better at something they want to be better at." 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 generating more interest in your work. People feel closer to your work because you're letting them in on what you know. (pg. 117)

When you put your work out into the world, you have to be ready for the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more people come across your work, the most criticism you'll face. Here's how to take punches: 1) Relax and Breathe: The trouble with imaginative people is we're good at picturing the worst that could happen to us. Fear is often just the imagination taking a wrong turn. Bad criticism is not the end of the world. No one has ever died from a bad review - take a deep breath and accept whatever comes, 2) Strengthen your Neck: The way to be able to take a punch is to practice getting hit a lot. Put out a lot of work. Let people take their best shot. Then make even more work and keep putting it out there. The more criticism you take, the more you realize it can't hurt you, and 3) Roll with the Punches: 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. Sometimes when people hate something about your work, it's fun to push that element even further. To make something they'd hate even more. Having your work hated by certain people is a badge of honor. (pg. 149)

The first step in evaluating feedback is sizing up who it came from. You want feedback from people who care about you and what you do. Be extra wary of feedback from anybody who falls outside of that circle. A troll is a person who isn't interested in improving your work, only provoking you with hateful, aggressive, or upsetting talk. You will gain nothing by engaging with these people. Don't feed them, and they'll usually go away. Do you have a troll problem? Use the "block" button on social media sites and delete nasty comments. (pg. 154)

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. Why email? Email is decades and decades old, but it's nowhere close to being dead. Even though almost everybody hates it, everybody has an email address. If you send someone an email, it will land in her inbox, and it will to her attention. She might not open it, but she definitely has to go through the trouble of deleting it. I know people who run multimillion-dollar businesses off 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. (pg. 169)

Never lose momentum in your career. Instead of taking a break 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 have done better, or what you couldn't get to, and jump right into the next project. (pg. 189)

When you feel like 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 so that you can move forward. You can't be content with mastery; you have to push yourself to be a student again. "Anyone who isn't embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn't learning enough," writes author Alain de Botton. (pg. 197)

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