“Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered” by Austin Kleon
5-MINUTE SUMMARY (MY NOTES)
You can’t be found if you’re not findable.
Put your work out there while you go through the process of mastering your craft. In this way, you’re sharing instead of blatant self-promoting.
Don’t Be the Lone Wolf
The myth of the “lone genius” is false.
Scenius (scene + genius) → “Great ideas are often birthed by a group of creative individuals who make up an ecology of talent” -Brian Eno
Creativity is always a collaboration in some way, the result of a connecting of minds.
This can be accomplished through sharing. More sharing, less networking.
Most successful people share routinely.
Sharing your ideas and knowledge generously helps you create a network automatically. You can then leverage that network when you need to.
Spend the majority of your time and energy focusing on what you want to while also using that experience to potentially attract an audience of people of like minds.
The Internet makes it easier than ever to join a scene. Think: blogs, email, forums, groups.
Be an amateur, not an expert.
We’re afraid to be seen as amateurs when in reality this is an advantage. You can take greater risks and experiment more.
Contributing something is better than nothing.
Learn in the open so others can learn from your successes and failures. “Think out loud about the thing you’re working on.”
Use any tools you can to get your ideas into the world.
Decide what you want to learn and commit to learning it publicly.
Share things others are unwilling to.
Talk about the things you’re passionate about and others who love the same things will find you. You also find your voice through this process.
We all have the opportunity to share. It’s right in front of us. If your work isn’t online in this day and age, it doesn’t exist.
People who have near death experiences nearly always are “woken up” by them, but it’s only a temporary enlightenment.
Put things in perspective and confront yourself with the fact that that you’ll die one day.
Reading obituaries on a daily basis is a great practice for confronting yourself with this reminder without having an actual near death experience. Keep death on the mind.
Show the Process of Your Work
Take others behind the scenes of what you’re working on.
For a painter, there is:
- Artwork – the finished, framed piece
- Art work – seeking inspiration, getting ideas, putting brush to canvas
With the internet, you can be as open in sharing your process as you want (vs. pre-internet when all you had was the finished product to show off in galleries).
People truly are genuinely curious how the sausage gets made.
This requires letting go of your ego.
Opens up the possibility of connecting with people on an ongoing basis (which in turn sells more in the end).
Whatever your work, there is an art to what you do. There are people who would be interested in that art if it’s presented in the right way.
Do this by turning the invisible into things other people can see
Create bits of media. Document what you do.
- Start a work journal
- Write thoughts down
- Speak to an audio recorder
- Take photos of your work
- Shoot video of you working
Tool of choice: smartphone (it’s always with you).
Even if you don’t share right away, start documenting. When you’re ready, you’ll have lots of material.
Once a day after finishing your work, go back to your documentation and take one thing from the process that you can share.
What you might share depends on what part of the process you’re in.
Early stages → your influences
Middle stage → your methods or works in progress
End stage → what you learned, scraps, final product
Daily dispatch can be anything you want: blog post, email, tweet, YouTube video, other media.
Try a new platform or choose where your audience is. Experiment.
Don’t be a perfectionist. You need feedback to see what’s good and what’s not.
Find time during breaks to do this if you have to.
There’s a fine line between sharing and over-sharing. Sharing is an act of generosity and should be done in the hope that it will helpful or entertaining for someone else.
Ask yourself before sharing “so what?” Don’t overthink, just go with your gut.
If you’re unsure whether to share, let it sit for 24 hours.
Stock and flow = economic concept that you can apply to media
Stock → major pieces of content that have a longer lifeline (blog posts, videos, etc)
Flow → feed (posts, tweets, etc)
It’s the daily or sub-daily reminders to people that you exist. These build fans over time.
Better your stock by collecting, organizing and expanding your flow.
Social media sites are like public notebooks (places to think out loud and have conversations with others that make us think more).
Revisiting posts helps you discover patterns in your flow.
Use this to turn them into something bigger and more substantial.
Tweet → blog post → book chapter
When you host your content on other sites, you risk them disappearing. Own your own space online that you control.
Register a domain name. Something, anything. It doesn’t need to look pretty, it just has to exist (if in doubt, choose either yourname.com or an alias).
Not for self-promotion, for self-invention.
Fill it with your work and ideas and stuff you care about. Let it change with time.
Eventually your name will become its own currency.
Share Everything You’re Curious About
There’s not as big a difference between collecting and creating as you might think.
Reading feeds your writing, which comes back to feed your reading.
Before your work is good enough to share, share your influences. They clue people into to who you are and what you do.
Find the treasure in other people’s trash.
To uncover hidden gems, keep a clear eye and open mind. Be willing to search for inspiration in places others aren’t able to go.
Share openly what you like. Own all of it and don’t self-edit.
This is the best way to connect with others who like these same things.
Always make sure to credit sources when sharing.
- What it is
- Who made it
- How they made it
- When and where it was made
- Why you’re sharing it (why people should care)
- How they can see more like it
Get Good at Storytelling
People’s assessment of something (and how valuable it is) is deeply affected by what you tell them about it (ex. original painting vs. forgery even though they look the exact same)
Your work doesn’t speak for itself.
People want to know where things came from, who made them and how they were made. This affects people’s feelings about the work and how they value it.
Becoming a better storyteller is the key to becoming more effective.
Even if the story is not finished, you can tell it.
Three acts: past, present and future. This structure can help listener be part of the story and decide how it ends like a Choose Your Own Adventure.
Study story structures and practice, they will improve over time.
Treat meetings and parties as a chance to connect with others.
Always honestly and humbly explain what it is what you do.
Be able to explain your work to everyone from a kindergartener to a senior citizen.
Strike adjectives from your bio – not “aspiring” photographer, just “photographer.”
Teach Others What You Know
Teaching others something you know doesn’t instantly create new competition. Knowing a technique is different from mastering it.
What can you share from your process that can inform people you’re trying to reach?
When you learn something, turn around and teach it.
People feel closer to your work because you’re letting them in on your knowledge.
Connect With Others
The best artists aren’t just looking for fans, they want collaborators.
They realize that art is always a two-way street, you need feedback.
If you want fans, you have to be a fan first. If you want to be accepted by a community, you have to be a good citizen of that community.
Be a connector, don’t only point to your stuff online.
Find quality fans, not quantity.
If you want followers, be someone worth following.
“To be interesting, you have to be interested.”
Stop trying to make or force connections – be good at things you do, make stuff you love, and talk about it. This is the formula for attracting connections.
The Vampire Test: do you feel worn and depleted or still full of energy after hanging out with someone? (can also be applied to jobs, hobbies, parties, etc)
Banish vampires from your life forever.
While other pitchers would never share their secrets, knuckleball pitchers pass on tips to each other to keep the pitch alive
Your fellow knuckleballers = the people who share your obsessions, have a similar mission
Nurture relationships with this group
Meet up with people you meet online in real life – host meetups or get-togethers
Be Able to Take Feedback
Be ready for everything when you put your work out there.
Criticism is part of it, and the more people who see it the more you’ll receive
Practice getting hit a lot and how you react to it
The most valuable feedback is from people who care about you and what you do
Trolls only aim to provoke you — ignore them and they’ll usually go away
Whether you make money from your art or not, the money has to come from somewhere.
Get over the “starving artist” mentality – money doesn’t inherently corrupt creativity.
- Take donations
- Selling things
Don’t be afraid to charge for your work when you feel confident that it’s truly worth something.
Even if you don’t have something to sell, you should always be collecting email addresses of people interested in what you do.
When you have something remarkable to say or sell, now you have direct contact.
“Sellout” is said by people who don’t want things to ever change.
Take opportunities that will allow you to do more work that you love.
When you have success, use your platform to help along others who have helped you.
Be as generous as you can but still selfish enough to get your work done.
Don’t quit prematurely, it’s often the ones who stick around long enough who get what they’re after.
Artists who manage life-long careers are always working on the next thing when they complete the previous.
A successful or failed project is not a guarantee of another success or failure.
Avoid stalling out in your career by never losing momentum.
Use the end of one project to light up the next one (chain-smoking).
Take sabbaticals – the ideas and thinking you get from these can fuel your works for years to come.
One year off, daily, weekly or monthly breaks where we walk away from our work completely.
Don’t be content with mastery, learn to become a student again (and document your learning).
Have the courage to get rid of work and rethink things completely.
Ex. Louis C.K. rewrites his standup comedy act every year.
You never really start over – everything you learned from previous work still permeates everything you do in the future.
BEST QUOTES FROM SHOW YOUR WORK!
“Forget about being an expert or a professional, and wear your amateurism (your heart, your love) on your sleeve. Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you.”
“The worst troll is the one that lives in your head.”
“You can’t be content with mastery; you have to push yourself to become a student again.”
“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.”
“Don’t try to be hip or cool. Being open and honest about what you like is the best way to connect with people who like those things, too.”
“Don’t think of your website as a self-promotion machine, think of it as a self-invention machine.”
“The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something.”
“The world is changing at such a rapid rate that it’s turning us all into amateurs.”
“It’s not enough to be good. In order to be found, you have to be findable.”
“Strike all the adjectives from your bio. If you take photos, you’re not an ‘aspiring’ photographer, you’re not an ‘amazing’ photographer either. You’re a photographer. Don’t get cute. Don’t brag. Just state the facts.”
“But now I realize that the only way to find your voice is to use it. It’s hardwired, built into you. Talk about the things you love. Your voice will follow.”
QUESTIONS & ACTIONS
Here are a few thoughts on how you could spend 30 minutes today applying a few ideas from the book:
- Spend three minutes reading the obituaries. Take a moment to reflect on your own death. Direct links are here for The New York Times and The Guardian.
- Document something today. As you’re going about your day, think about what you can document. Use your smartphone to capture a snapshot or video of your work process, creations, or anything else you find entertaining or inspiring. Try to make this a habit.
- Share it. If you’re not already a frequent sharer, it can feel uncomfortable to take people behind the scenes. Often times this is just a comfort zone issue. Make the leap. Take what you’ve documented and share on the platform where it’s most likely to get seen by the highest number of people right away. It’s through this process that you start to collect, connect and get feedback.
- Kickstart your process. If you don’t already own your own domain, buy it today. Don’t put this off any longer. If yourname.com isn’t available, find a variant or decide on an alias. I prefer Namecheap because it gives you free privacy protection (non-affiliate link here).
- Connect with three people. Spend a few minutes consuming the content of others online who are two steps further ahead of where you want to be. React. Reach out and ask a question. Give feedback. Start to build your scenius.