Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Book Notes. Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered, by Austin Kleon

I recently read this book on Kindle. I really liked this short book, and in general, Austin Kleon's work. These are my notes, without context.

A new way of operating

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.

Almost all of the people I look up to and try to steal from today, regardless of their profession, 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, or their cubicles, 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 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 — for fellowship, feedback, or patronage.

If Steal Like an Artist was a book about stealing influence from other people, this book is about how to influence others by letting them steal from you.

You don't have to be a genius

If you look back closely at history, many of the people who we think of as lone geniuses were actually part of “a whole scene of people who were supporting each other, looking at each other’s work, copying from each other, stealing ideas, and contributing ideas.” *Scenius* doesn’t take away from the achievements of those great individuals; it just acknowledges that good work isn’t created in a vacuum, and that creativity is always, in some sense, a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds.

Amateurs are not afraid to make mistakes or look ridiculous in public. They’re in love, so they don’t hesitate to do work that others think of as silly or just plain stupid.

Mediocrity is, however, still on the spectrum; you can move from mediocre to good in increments. The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something.

Think process, not product

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 scenius, 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, no matter how bad they are at first. Don’t worry, for now, about how you’ll make money or a career off it. 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.

Whether you share it or not, documenting and recording your process as you go along has its own rewards: You’ll start to see the work you’re doing more clearly and feel like you’re making progress. And when you’re ready to share, you’ll have a surplus of material to choose from.

Share something small everyday

Once a day, after you’ve done your day’s work, go back to your documentation and find one little piece of your process that you can share. Where you are in your process will determine what that piece is. If you’re in the very early stages, share your influences and what’s inspiring you. If you’re in the middle of executing a project, write about your methods or share works in progress. If you’ve just completed a project, show the final product, share scraps from the cutting - room floor, or write about what you learned. If you have lots of projects out into the world, you can report on how they’re doing — you can tell stories about how people are interacting with your work.

Don’t show your lunch or your latte; show your work.

Don’t worry about everything you post being perfect. Science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon once said that 90 percent of everything is crap. The same is true of our own work. 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.

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. We’re all busy, but we all get 24 hours a day. People often ask me, “How do you find the time for all this ?” And I answer, “I look for it.” You find time the same place you find spare change: in the nooks and crannies.

Absolutely everything good that has happened in my career can be traced back to my blog.

Tell good stories

“The problem with hoarding is you end up living off your reserves. Eventually, you’ll become stale. If you give away everything you have, you are left with nothing. This forces you to look, to be aware, to replenish... Somehow the more you give away, the more comes back to you.” — Paul Arden

There’s not as big of a difference between collecting and creating as you might think. A lot of the writers I know see the act of reading and the act of writing as existing on opposite ends of the same spectrum: The reading feeds the writing, which feeds the reading.

If you want to be more effective when sharing yourself and your work , you need to become a better storyteller .

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.

In their book, Rework, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson encourage businesses to emulate chefs by out - teaching their competition. “What do you do? What are your ‘recipes’? What’s your ‘cookbook’? What can you tell the world about how you operate that’s informative, educational, and promotional?” They encourage businesses to figure out the equivalent of their own cooking show.

The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to others. Share your reading list.

When you share your knowledge and your work with others , you receive an education in return.


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.

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