Disclaimer: Book summaries are not a perfect representation of the material covered by the author and should not be used as substitutes to reading the book. If you have the time, read the entire book. Otherwise, enjoy this Book Brief!
Show Your Work by Austin Kleon is a quick read encouraging you, with practical tips, to share your creativity and work. In essence, it's a book about self-promotion, overcoming the fear of sharing your work, and gaining an audience.
You don't have to be a genius
You don't have to be outstanding in what you're creating or learning in order to share anything. Creativity is a collaborative and interactive effort. What's important are your ideas, conversations, connections, etc.
Learn in the open
Amateurs pursue work with passion and have little to lose. They're not afraid to make mistakes. They often make better teachers because they've recently gained knowledge from overcoming challenges.
- Use whatever tools are at your disposal to get your work and ideas out there.
- Pay attention to what others are sharing, then note what they're not sharing.
- Don't worry about how you'll make a career or profit at first.
Share your process
Be open about your process, whether you're learning or creating something. By consistently sharing your work and the progress you're making, you form a unique bond with your audience.
Document your process
There are always people interested in your work. You have to present it the right way, becoming a documentarian.
Write down your thoughts, take photographs, shoot a video of you working. Even if you don't share it, it serves to solidify the work in your head.
Share something small every day
Focus on sharing something every day. It shows what you're working on right now.
- If you're early in the process, share your influences and inspirations.
- If you're in the middle, share the work in progress.
- Show the final product or write about what you learned if you're done.
Don't let sharing take away from actually doing the work and don't share something if you're not ready for everyone to see it.
Make sure you are sharing something of value by constantly asking yourself "so what?".
How can you get started?
- Get a domain name and a website.
- Fill your website with your work, ideas, and things you care about.
- Stick with it and maintain it.
- Listen to the right people for feedback and let your work change over time.
Share your influences
One of the ways to share your journey is to share what and who is influencing you along the way.
Credit is always due
If you share other people's work, properly credit the author with the right attribution.
Attribution is about giving context: what the work is, who made it, how they made it, when and where it was made, why you're sharing it, why people should care, and where people can learn more about it.
If you're sharing something from an online source, the best form of attribution is a hyperlink to the material or person's website.
Tell good stories
People want to know where things came from, how they were made, and who made them. Learn to be a good storyteller.
Structure is everything
When sharing your work, start with the initial problem, then the work done to solve the problem, then the solution. Speak in plain and direct language. You can follow the 3 acts pattern: the past, present, and future.
- Past: what you want, how you came to want it, and what you've done so far.
- Present: where you are now and how you're achieving your goal.
- Future: where you're going and how the person consuming your work can help you get there.
Teach what you know
It's ok to share your trade secrets. Teaching doesn't mean you'll create competition. Rather, you often gain respect and inspire others to learn and grow.
- Share your reading list.
- Share your helpful materials like links to other blog posts or articles.
- Create tutorials and share them online.
Connect with others
In order to gain fans, you need to be a fan yourself. Don't just point to your own work. Share other people's work, interact with them and your audience, and be a connector.
- Reply to comments on your website posts.
- Interact with like-minded individuals on social media and respond to comments.
- Find opportunities to collaborate with other creators.
You don't have to interact with every single person. If after an interaction with someone you feel depleted, that is a sign to leave that person out of your life. Apply it to jobs, hobbies, places, etc.
These are people who share your passions and your mission. They'll often be your biggest supporters and spark meaningful conversations. Do what you can to nurture your relationships with them.
Try to meet them in person as well. This will help you develop stronger bonds and spontaneous ideas.
Most importantly, don't be a jerk while interacting with others.
Learn to take a punch
As you share your work, whether online or in person, you're bound to face haters. It's important to learn to take a punch and not let these people stop you from doing what you love.
- Relax and breathe, and accept whatever comes.
- Practice getting hit by continuously sharing your work. The more you share, the more you will get hit and practice.
- Control how you react to criticism.
- If you have work that is too important to you to be criticized, keep it hidden.
- Remember that your work is not who you are.
Don't feed the trolls
A troll is someone who is not interested in improving your work. They want to provoke you by being hateful or aggressive. Don't feed them, and they'll usually go away.
Some options include:
- Delete negative comments that don't provide any value.
- Turn off comments altogether.
- Let people contact you directly instead of commenting.
When you start gaining a big enough audience, you might want to start monetizing.
- Ask for donations by putting a virtual tip jar or a donate now button on your site.
- Use crowdfunding with tiered rewards for donors. Keep in mind they'll want a say in how the money is being used.
- Make something and sell it for money.
Beware of selling things you love as you'll find when it comes to money, people become reserved. You may be disappointed when you realize people don't value what you love as much as you thought or were led to believe.
Keep yourself busy by saying yes to opportunities that allow you to do more of the work you love. If an opportunity comes along that will pay more money, but will not allow you to do something you love, say no.
When you reach success, make sure to help those who helped you. Be careful you don't say yes to everything though, as that can lead to burnout or you doing less of the work you love.
Keep a mailing list
Always collect email addresses from people who come across your work and want to stay in touch.
- Give away free items through your site.
- Collect emails in the process. Put an email sign-up button on every page.
- When you have something to sell or share, use the email list as a starting point.
The people who get what they're after are the ones who stick around long enough. You never know where you are in your journey. You can only do your work, one day at a time.
Use a way of working called "chainsmoking". Instead of taking breaks between projects and waiting for feedback, use the project to determine what's next. Ask yourself what you missed, what you could've improved, what you couldn't do, etc.
Take Practical Sabbaticals
Be careful you don't burn out. If you are burnt out, take a sabbatical. Daily, weekly, or monthly breaks where you walk away from your work completely.
- Commuting can help separate your work life from your home life.
- Exercising helps with relaxing the mind.
- Be in nature and disconnect from anything electronic.
When you feel like you've learned all there is, find something new to learn. Repeat the process of learning in the open. Document your progress, share your work, pay attention to feedback from the right people, and give back.