Show Your Work

Summary Written by Kerri Twigg
"I’m going to try and teach you how to think about your work as a never-ending process, how to share your process in a way that attracts people who might be interested in what you do, and how do deal with the ups and downs of putting yourself and your work out in the world"

- Show Your Work, page 3

The Big Idea

Share every day

"A daily dispatch is even better than a resume or portfolio, because it shows what we’re working on right now"- Show Your Work, page 48

There is a whole chapter devoted to this idea. It is simple, share something publicly every day. It can be work in progress, something inspiring the work process, a snippet of work you are doing. This idea can help in two ways:

1. Builds an online portfolio/journal
2. Forces work to be done – accountability.

I am way more likely to sit down and write another scene in my play than watch a show, if I am committed to sharing every day. In the book, Kleon draws attention to the fact that people don’t care so much what project someone worked on two years ago, or even last month – what is being worked on right now? Share it.
While this is the The Big Idea for me, I haven’t started doing it yet. Every day that I don’t create and share something is a step back from attracting people to my work.

Insight #1

To hoard is not to hold

"Your influences are all worth sharing because they clue people in to who you are and what you do –sometimes even more than your own work."- Show Your Work, page 77

Love this. As a teenager, I would proudly wear band shirts and write my favorite lyrics onto my binder with a sharpie marker – everyone knew what I liked. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve held my favorite bands and books a little closer to me. Kleon suggests that people should share their inspirations and influences with others, and that sharing can help people feel closer to the creator. Lately, many of the artists I follow online have entire newsletters all about the music, sites and art they are inspired by. I eagerly absorb this information and feel in on a secret. I’ve begun searching for the writers that inspired the writers I like – I love their work so much, I want to experience the source of their inspiration. If you’re really blown away by something, or crushing on something hard – share it.

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Insight #2

It is okay to make money

"We all have to get over our ‘starving artist’ romanticism and the idea that touching money inherently corrupts creativity. Some of the most meaningful and most cherished cultural artifacts were made for money"- Show Your Work, page 163

About a year ago, the director of a school I studied at was in my city. We were touring the city and I shared with her some program ideas I had. She asked me what was stopping me from starting them. I explained that I would need to get charitable status, and form a not-for-profit board. She looked at me and said, “You know, it’s okay to make money at this”. Since that moment, I have found a little less anxiety associated with making money at things I do naturally, or creatively. This was another reminder of that lesson.

The lovely thing about Kleon’s book is that it is all very do-able. It is highly readable and honest. The danger is that the simplicity of the lessons make it seem easy. It is not. I believe that if every person who hated self-promotion were to integrate just one of the suggestions from this book into their marketing, the world would get to see, experience and be inspired by a whole new league of artists.

Read the book

Get Show Your Work on Amazon.

Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon is the New York Times bestselling author of three illustrated books: Steal Like An Artist (Workman, 2012) is a manifesto for creativity in the digital age; Show Your Work! (Workman, 2014) is a guide to sharing creativity and getting discovered; and Newspaper Blackout (Harper Perennial, 2010) is a collection of poetry made by redacting words from newspaper articles with a permanent marker.

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