Review of Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

This book by Austin Kleon gives you actionable steps to promote yourself and the creative work you produce.

Review of Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon
Show Your Work! 10 Ways To Share Your Creativity And Get Discovered
It sounds a little extreme, but in this day and age, if your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist. - Austin Kleon

Today I completed my first reading of this book by Austin Kleon. It is a very timely book for me, and I really like the advice that he gives as it resonates with what I believe too about creativity and marketing yourself.

My review covers;

  • Who this book is for
  • Key takeaways
  • How you can implement immediately
  • My favorite highlights
  • My final thoughts

Who is this for?

The aspiring creators who want to build something for themselves in the passion economy. I would also add, it's for anyone who doesn't yet have their own website as their online home.

While this book is encouraging creators to promote themselves, it shares very useful advice you might not have heard before. For example, the idea that creative work is not about creating from scratch but compiling and documenting.

When I read it, I found it very useful advice as I prime myself at the starting line in building my life's work online through writing.

What are the key takeaways?

The big idea I took away from this is that to if you want to create, to learn and grow, and to find likeminded people - you have to do the work and show the work.

In today's context, that means building a website and using social media.

Do the work - Whatever creative endeavor you find yourself skilled in and find joy in doing. For me, it's learning to write.

Show the work - It is about sharing it with the world and use that as a way to connect with other people. This is where feedback and learning happens.

Some interesting points he makes that fly in the face of some popular advice for creators:

  • Share freely - Put your work online and tell the world.
  • Teach openly - Don't be afraid of teaching others how you do it.
  • Credit vigorously - We don't create ideas, we compile them.
  • Create continually - The 'work' never ends, so keep on creating and don't quit prematurely.

How can I implement this in my life?

You can start by creating a website, and sharing your work online. Distribute and share you work using social media and groups. It's simple to start and you should begin today. That's what I did with when starting my own website.

Do this often and you will reap the compounding effects of showing your work.

Creative work finds life in community.

You can't just build and expect the audience to come. This is something for me to internalise; I don't have to share the finished product of my work. I can share my process and that will be useful to people too.

My favourite highlights

  • Amateurs might lack formal training, but they’re all lifelong learners, and they make a point of learning in the open, so that others can learn from their failures and successes.
  • 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.
  • It sounds a little extreme, but in this day and age, if your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.
  • Become a documentarian of what you do. Start a work journal: 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.
  • Don’t think of your website as a self-promotion machine, think of it as a self-invention machine.
  • When you find things you genuinely enjoy, don’t let anyone else make you feel bad about it. Don’t feel guilty about the pleasure you take in the things you enjoy.
  • Artists love to trot out the tired line, “My work speaks for itself,” but the truth is, our work doesn’t speak for itself. 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.
  • On writing our bios: We all like to think we’re more complex than a two-sentence explanation, but a two-sentence explanation is usually what the world wants from us. Keep it short and sweet.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • If you’re only pointing to your own stuff online, you’re doing it wrong. You have to be a connector.
  • As you put yourself and your work out there, you will run into your fellow knuckleballers. These are your real peers—the people who share your obsessions, the people who share a similar mission to your own, the people with whom you share a mutual respect.
  • What really matters, Eggers says, is doing good work and taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.
  • The people who get what they’re after are very often the ones who just stick around long enough. It’s very important not to quit prematurely.
  • Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough.

In the book, Austin also included some great quotes:

  • "Put yourself, and your work, out there every day, and you’ll start meeting some amazing people." —Bobby Solomon
  • “Carving out a space for yourself online, somewhere where you can express yourself and share your work, is still one of the best possible investments you can make with your time.” —Andy Baio

My final thoughts

This is exceedingly useful advice for someone like me who is building stuff online. I have the skills to build my own website, and this probably means I have no excuse to start taking the advice in the book and start implementing it immediately.

That's what I like about this book, the advice is practical and thought provoking at the same time. I can implement it immediately, and the principles are something I will carry for a long time.

A good short read, if you have any interest at all in writing or personal growth. A small hat tip to Ali Abdaal who recommended this book.