show your work summary

Book Summary: Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

The Book in Three Sentences

While Kleon’s previous book was about “stealing” from others, Show Your Work encourages artists to become findable. Instead of wasting time networking, you should be using social networks to discover yourself at the same time you add value to people’s lives. Show Your Work is about being so influential that you let other people steal from you.

Show Your Work Summary

A New Way of Operating

People often have questions about self-promotion, but you should be focusing on getting good instead. For people to find you, you have to be findable. There’s a way to put your work out there while getting good. Build sharing into your routine. Post bits and pieces of your work, ideas, and what you’re learning. This book is a beginner’s manual for people who hate self-promotion.

Steal Like an Artist was about stealing influence from others. Show Your Work is about influencing others by letting them steal from you.

Chapter 1: You Don’t Have to Be a Genius

The “lone genius” is a destructive myth. Nobody’s a superhuman who appears out of nowhere and delivers a masterpiece. Instead, great ideas come from a group of creative people. To a certain extent, creativity is collaboration and the internet is the perfect place for this.

Amateurs have the advantage over professionals because unlike the latter, the former have nothing to lose. Amateurs experiment and share the results. They’re not afraid to make mistakes. They learn constantly. They use any tools they can get their hands on.

You can’t find your voice if you don’t use it.

Read obituaries. The basic fact of life is that we’re all going to die. Obituaries are about life, not death.

Chapter 2: Think Process, Not Product

To everyone but yourself, the most important thing is the finished product. To you, the most important thing is the process, the experience. By sharing the process, you can bond with your audience. Become a documentarian. Start a work journal, keep a scrapbook, and take photographs of your work.

Chapter 3: Share Something Small Every Day

Overnight success doesn’t exist. When it comes to building a body of work, focus on days. At the end of the day, pick one piece of your process and share it. Pick a social media according to what you do and share there. Don’t be afraid to adopt a new social network early. To post, think about what you’re working on. Show your work, not your lunch. Don’t let sharing your work get in the way of doing actual work. Share, but don’t overshare. You’re sharing what others might find helpful or entertaining.

Stock and flow are concepts from economy. For media, flow is the feed (the daily updates, posts, and tweets) and stock is the content that’s timeless. Social networks come and go. If you want to develop a more permanent presence online, register a domain name, pay for web hosting, and start a blog. Don’t abandon your website for a new social network.

Chapter 4: Open Up Your Cabinet of Curiosities

Don’t hoard, curate. Your influences are worth sharing. If you share someone else’s work, give proper credit to its owner. Treat that work with respect and care. Tell people where you found the work you’re sharing. Don’t share something if you don’t know who made it or where it came from.

Chapter 5: Tell Good Stories

The stories you tell about your work matter. People want to connect. The story has to have a structure and follow a certain logic. When you’re telling a story, think about your audience. Be clear and brief. Be frank about what you do.

Chapter 6: Teach What You Know

Teaching doesn’t mean competition. When you love something, you should go out of your way to share the knowledge. When you teach, you generate more interest in your work.

Chapter 7: Don’t Turn into Human Spam

Some people want a prize without earning it first. They’re human spam. Don’t make the same mistake and point to your own stuff only. If you want people to follow you, turn into someone worth following. To be interesting, first, you have to be interested.

Don’t hang out with people that drain your energy. This doesn’t apply to people only, but also to jobs, hobbies, places, and so on. If you share your mission with someone else, that person immediately becomes important. Share, collaborate, and keep those people close. Have personal meetups with members of your online community.

Chapter 8: Learn to Take a Punch

Don’t take criticism personally and don’t feed the trolls, they go away.

Chapter 9: Sell Out

Don’t be afraid to charge for your work or ask for donations, but the price should be fair.

You should start building a mailing list as soon as you can. Email is old and isn’t any signs of dying soon. The model to make money is simple: give away something in exchange for people’s email addresses. When you have something to sell, send them an email. Hopefully, they’ll buy.

Whatever you do, don’t betray people’s trust.

Chapter 10: Stick Around

To get what you’re after, don’t quit. Find a way to never lose momentum. Persevere. Use the end of a project to start another one. Don’t be afraid to take some time off to recharge.

You can do this on a minor scale daily:

  • Commute
  • Exercise
  • Nature

Whenever you feel like you mastered something, stop doing it and start something else.

Further Reading

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