Show your work by Austin Kleon
Show your work
“Become a documentarian of what you do.”Austin Kleon
Are you a creator? Do you have a story to tell? Good, then this book is exactly what you need. In the book, Austin takes you through the steps of how to get your creative journey out into the world. In ten rules you’ll learn how to discover yourself and share your work in the open. By bravely telling your story you make yourself findable by like-minded people. The book is easy to read with a great combination of storytelling and practical tips.
My reading notes of show your work
Be an amateur
Being seen as an amateur is something most of us try to avoid, however, it is the amateur who has some great advantages over the professional. An amateur has nothing to lose and is full of enthusiasm to learn new things. By retaining the “amateur spirit”, even as a professional, means staying a lifelong learner which is the best way to go about it. Plus, with our fast-changing world, we are soon all going to become amateurs.
Austin recommends becoming part of a “scenius”, a group of people who, with their talents, create great ideas. This model acknowledges that good work is not created in a vacuum but by a collaboration of great minds.
Show your work to everyone
Learning in the open enables others to learn from our mistakes and successes. Commit to learning what you love in the open, by sharing your work online.
Teaching what you know does not mean you are creating instant competition for yourself. If you mastered a technique others will not be able to emulate this right away. Austin suggests that as soon as you learn something you teach others. This will also allow you to learn the craft even better. Whether it is through reference materials, tutorials, or a reading list, share it online for others to learn from.
“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.”Austin Kleon
Not the end result but the way to get there
Sharing not only what result you have achieved with your work but also how you came to the thought, developed the process, and completed the work can make the bond with your audience even stronger. Most humans, want to know what others are doing and are longing for a peek behind the curtain. So by sharing your process and the journey you are giving the audience what they want.
If you feel like you have nothing to show: become a documentarian of what you do. Start a work journal, write down thoughts, or take photographs. All this will make you see all the work more clearly and will give you a sense of progress. Once you are ready to share your work you have plenty of material to choose from.
What you share does not have to be huge. You can also send out small daily updates. Once the day is over, share something small as a blog post, email, video, or anything else. Austin also describes this as “flow”. These are little reminders to your audience that you still exist. Add some “stock”, durable content that will be relevant even in a couple of years, into the mix now and you will have a perfect formula for online storytelling and creative sharing.
Stick to it
There will come a moment, after some time of sharing your work, that you will get tempted to abandon your current sharing strategy. There will always be a newer shinier platform or sharing opportunity. However, don’t give in to this urge. Think about your work in the long term. Especially if you have your own website, owning the work as well as the website means you have full control.
Besides new platforms, the work itself will also have its ups and downs. However, in this case, as well it is important to think about it in the long term. Most successful people in their field are the ones who don’t give up and stick around.
Become a good storyteller
A good story is how you add more value to your work. Because stories drive the emotion of the work, it impacts how people feel about the work and therefore up the value. Make sure that your story has a good structure and always keep your audience in mind. Listen to what they want and need so you don’t become human spam.
“Stop worrying about how many people follow you online and start worrying about the quality of people who follow you”.Austin Kleon
By making and sharing the stuff you love you will attract people with the same interest. Nurture the relationship you will get with these people with whom you share an obsession. This will make it more fun as well as a great learning experience.
Perfection does not exist and so when you put your work out there you will get some criticism. Knowing this enables you to prepare for this. When faced with criticism don’t act prematurely, take a step back and breathe, it will happen anyway. Also know that you will only get better at receiving criticism by experiencing it a lot. So put out even more work.
Decide what work might be too vulnerable to put out. If you know the work is too sensitive don’t put it out (yet). Be keep in mind that if you avoid all vulnerabilities you will never be able to reach people with your work.
Criticism can contain great learning lessons. But first, evaluate where it came from. If it is a troll, just ignore it. If it is sincere and thus great feedback try to see it as an opportunity and better yourself and your work.
“A troll is a person who isn’t interested in improving your work, only provoking you with hateful, agressive, or upsetting talk.You will gain nothing from engaging with these people. Don’t feed them, and they’ll usually go away.”Austin Kleon
Another great tip that Austin gives is to do the vampire test when spending time with people. If, after hanging out with them you feel depleted, you are dealing with a vampire. If you feel full of energy and enthusiasm, the person is not a vampire. Since vampires can’t be cured it is best to avoid them. This test does not only apply to people but can also be applied to jobs, hobbies, or places.
Don’t lose momentum but don’t burn out either
The book recommends something which you will not hear often: start to chain-smoke. However, the definition of this sort of chain-smoking is a little different. It means that you should avoid stalling and never lose momentum. Don’t take breaks when waiting for feedback on your project, start the next one already. This way you will keep the momentum going. Remain ambitious and jump into opportunities that allow you to do more of what you want to do.
On the other hand, it is also important to realize when you do need a break. Burning out is never a great idea. A sabbatical could be a great way to get your energy levels back up when you are (close to) being burned out. Autin also points out three great spots to take a break: on a commute, during exercise, and in nature.
My overall thoughts
The book has great lessons on how to show your work. It is thought-provoking and has enough practical tips and tricks to make it easy to get started. You can see that the book does not just consist of theoretical material but is a collection of information combined with Austin’s experiences. I found the book enjoyable as well as easy and quick to read.
What I take from show your work
- Funnily enough, Show your work actually encouraged me to start The Learning Me. I always had the sense that it would be nice to share more online, and me not being that into social media, I always thought about a blog or maybe Youtube. But after reading the book I knew I had no reason to wait to be perfect. I, as a beginner, had to just start writing and sharing what I experience and learn online. The description of how me showing my work could help others got me over my initial fear and here we are today.
Find more information about Austin Kleon on his website.