📙 Show Your Work! - Austin Kleon (Book Notes/Review)
Taking notes on certain books is a great way to ensure you internalise what you've read.
It's also going to be useful for me when I'm looking for a quote or insight when I'm writing something else.
I'll be using this format for any future book review/notes posts. Enjoy!
🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences
- By sharing your work, you'll attract like minded people who care about what you're doing, and this can change your life massively in the long run.
- It doesn't matter if you're a beginner - just start. You'll benefit from having a different view.
- The end product isn't the be all and end all. Show your process and your working - most of the time, this is as interesting and important as what you're creating.
This book was the main reason I decided to start writing online and putting my thoughts and ideas out there. I only read it for the first time in November 2020, and have since reread it in Feb 2021.
It's made me realise that starting somewhere is better than not at all. And that by sharing what I've worked on, I can interact more easily with others that share the same interests and ideas.
This post will be my 5th so far on my site, and it's this book that encouraged me to start in the first place.
Who Should Read It?
This is a book for anyone and everyone. Sharing your work or process, or even your ideas, is the best way to meet like minded people. The growth possibilities from that point are endless.
This is obviously especially the case if you produce creative work, but it's also very relevant for business owners and entrepreneurs.
It's also worth mentioning that the book itself is very enjoyable to read, filled with graphics and doodles from the author. It's also super short, and it's square shaped. What more could you want? It can be found here.
☘️ How the Book Changed Me
- It got me to start my website and take more of an interest in building my personal brand
- It's encouraged me to worry less about getting things wrong and actually sharing my work online - by focusing on the people, and their opinions, that I actually care about
- As well as being comfortable being 'a beginner'
✍️ My Top 3 Quotes
- The trick is not caring what EVERYBODY thinks of you and just caring about what the RIGHT people think of you.
- Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you.
- Amateurs know that contributing something is better than contributing nothing.
📒 Summary + Notes
A New Way of Operating
Self-promotion isn't fun. It's hard, it's tiring, and it can be pretty awkward for most.
Instead, you need to be findable. Share your work in a way that makes you easily discoverable, and your audience will follow.
By sharing knowledge and ideas, you'll gain leverage with your audience for when you need it.
Imagine...sharing the majority of your time, energy, and attention practicing a craft, learning a trade, or running a business, while also allowing for the possibility that your work might attract a group of people who share your interests.
All you have to do is show your work.
You Don't Have to Be A Genius
Find a Scenius
It's time to step away from the idea of needing to be a lone genius.
"Many of the people 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."
Instead of worrying about being a genius, focus on contributing as a "scenius" - you don't have to be an expert. "Online, everyone - the artist and the curator, the master and the apprentice, the expert and the amateur - has the ability to contribute something."
Be An Amateur
Everyone's worried about being found out as an amateur but being one is a powerful thing. "In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities," said Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki. "In the expert's mind, there are few."
Share what you love and show your learning so others can too. Contributing something is always better than contributing nothing.
Think Process, Not Product
Take People Behind the Scenes
What you're creating is important for the reader or the watcher. But they are just as interested in the how, as they are in the what.
By sharing this process, creators can connect further with their audience, and enable their audience to learn a thing or two.
Become A Documentarian Of What You Do
One of Gary Vaynerchuk's key mantras - document, don't create. It's much easier to show what you're doing and how you're doing it - especially when it's not so easy to show a finished product (yet).
Tweet about your work. Share in-progress photos on Instagram. Invite your audience in and let them be part of the final product.
Share Something Small Everyday
By sharing the process, you don't need to wait for the final product. Send a Tweet or upload an Instagram story, let your audience see what you're doing. Influences, methods, works in progress.
It's more interesting for people to see what you're working on right now, than what you worked on last weekend.
The "So What?" Test
Don't overshare, though. Everything you do share should be helpful or entertaining. Try the "So What?" test - Is this helpful? Is it entertaining?
Turn Your Flow Into Stock
Flow is the feed. It's the posts and the tweets. it's the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people you exist. Stock is the durable stuff. It's the content you produce that's as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today.
Your social media can act as your public notebook. You think out loud, people respond, and you can think some more.
By sharing part of your daily life and routine, you'll spot the themes and trends emerging from what you share. With these patterns, you can then turn them into something more substantial: stock.
Build A Good Domain Name
Andy Bio said -
Carving out a space for yourself online, somewhere where you can express yourself and share your work, is still one of the best possible investments you can make with your time.
Social networks are great but they don't stay around forever. Installing a blog on your own domain is more permanent. It's a place you can turn flow into stock, from 1 post to 1000. It's your sketchbook, diary, storefront.
Go out and register a domain name - www.[yourname].com. Build it up (Google is your friend) and use it for self-invention. Fill it with your work and the things you care about, and stick with it.
Don't worry about the money. If you fill it with good work, your name will eventually hold its own currency. People will come.
Open Up Your Cabinet Of Curiosities
Don't Be A Hoarder
We all carry around the weird and wonderful things of life. This taste makes us who we are, and good taste is why we get into creative work.
For a while, it's no good. But it's your taste that holds value.
So where does it come from? What influences you? What do you read? Who do you follow online? Your taste and your influences are as important as your work itself. Share them.
No Guilty Pleasures
We all love things that others don't, but you shouldn't shy away from showing what you really enjoy.
"Being open and honest about what you like is the best way to connect with people who like those things, too."
Credit Is Always Due
"If you share the work of others, it's your duty to make sure that the creators of that work get proper credit."
Give a h/t whoever created the work, share a link to their page and tell people why you liked it, why they should care about it and where they can see more work like it.
Tell Good Stories
Work Doesn't Speak For Itself
Artists love to say "My work speaks for itself" but for the most part, it doesn't. We want to know the how, and the why. What stories can you tell about the process? Every tweet, photo, email - they're all part of the story you're sharing online.
Structure Is Everything
"The most important part of a story is its structure."
A good structure is tidy, but unfortunately life isn't. Experiences need to be cropped to fit into a good structure, so pick your favourite story and try and fit your experiences to it instead.
Remember your audience. Speak to them in simple language. Be brief. Learn speaking and writing. Proofread your work. With practice, you'll be great at storytelling.
Teach What You Know
Share Your Trade Secrets
Share what you know. We all started in the same position, so you're obligated to help the previous version of you.
Teaching people generates interest in your own work. In doing so, you'll get the opinions and wisdom of those you should have spoken to before you did the work in the first place.
Don't Turn Into Human Spam
Shut Up And Listen
"If you're only pointing to your own stuff online, you're doing it wrong."
You should spend as much time looking for readers and watchers as you should spend looking for collaborators, or people to hang out with and ask questions. Read recommendations, chat with 'fans' about what they love.
You Want Hearts, Not Eyeballs
The amount of followers isn't as important as who is following you. Don't waste time talking to people you don't want to, or about things you don't want to talk about.
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.
The Vampire Test
Derek Sivers said -
Whatever excites you, go do it. Whatever drains you, stop doing it.
"If, after hanging out with someone you feel worn out and depleted, that person is a vampire."
"But if you still feel full of energy, that person is not a vampire."
Identify Your Fellow Knuckleballers
In baseball, knuckleball pitchers have formed a brotherhood. Unlike other pitchers, they share techniques and tips on kunckleball throws, in an attempt to keep the pitch alive.
As you share your work, you'll find your knuckleballers. Those who share your passions and ideas. Cultivate those relationships - keep them close, share your work, send your praise. There won't be many, and they are so important.
Learn To Take A Punch
Let 'Em Take Their Best Shot
When you put work out into the world , here's how to be prepared for the positive, but also the negative feedback:
Relax and breathe - "Bad criticism isn't the end of the world."
Strengthen your neck - Put out lots of work. Get hit a lot. Take the criticism. Put out more work.
Roll with the punches - Keep moving, learn from the criticism. And for those that hate it, you've clearly stuck gold somewhere.
Protect your vulnerable areas - Keep hidden work that's too sensitive to share. But remember, as writer Colin Marshall said - "Compulsive avoidance of embarrassment is a form of suicide."
Keep your balance - "Your work is something you do, not who you are."
The trick is not caring what EVERYBODY thinks of you and just caring about what the RIGHT people think of you.
~Brian Michael Bendis
Don't Feed The Trolls
Focus only on the feedback from people you care about you and your work.
Even The Renaissance Had To Be Funded
There's no shame in making money to support yourself.
Ignore those that claim you're a sellout - you have to make money somewhere. Just don't be annoying.
Keep A Mailing List
Even if you don't have anything to sell now, you should always collect email adresses to stay in touch.
Email is still king: everyone may hate it, but we all have an email address. It'll land in her inbox, and they might not open it, "but they definitely have to go to the trouble of deleting it."
Give away free stuff online: knowledge, info, entertainment. When you have something cool to sell, send an email. The model works well.
Don't betray the people who put their trust in you with annoying spam. Don't push your luck!
Make More Work For Yourself
Be ambitious. Keep youself busy. Think bigger. Expand your audience. Try new things. If an opportunity comes your way that will allow you to do more of the kind of work you want to do, say Yes.
Ignore those who are say 'sellout.' "What really matters", writes author Dave Eggers, "is doing good work and taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way." Say yes.
Pay It Forward
When you gain success, don't forget about the people that got you there, from teachers to fans. Give them a chance to share their work.
At some point, you'll have to say no, more than you say yes. But make time - "be as generous as you can, but selfish enough to get your work done."
Above all, recognize that if you have had success, you have also had luck - and with luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to your gods. You owe a debt to the unlucky.
Don't Quit Your Show
Wait for as long as you can. Don't give up on things - just put them on pause. Be ready for when the opportunities come.
'What's next?' will always follow you around. Avoid losing momentum with your work by never stopping.
Finish what's in front of you, figure out what could've been better, and move on.
Go Away So You Can Come Back
Everyone reaches burnout at some point. You just need to step back and refresh.
Take a sabbatical. Plan it well, budget for it, and make your clients/fans/family aware.
You can also switch off by:
Making the most of your commute - Zone out and read, listen to music, take in a podcast.
Exercise - Using your body relaxes your mind, and relaxing your mind frees up space for new thoughts
Nature - Get away from inside and electronics.
Now more important than ever as we all work from home - separate your work from the rest of your life.
Start Over / Begin Again
When you feel like you've learned whatever there is to learn from what you're doing, it's time to change course and find something new to learn so that you can move forward. You can't be content with mastery; you have to push yourself to become a student again.
When you get rid of your old crap and start again, you come back with something better. You just have to be brave enough to get rid of it in the first place.
Pick something new to learn, and share your progress as you do so others can learn with you.
"Show your work, and when the right people show up, pay close attention to them, because they'll have a lot to show you."
Remember - not all advice is useful. "Feel free to take what you can use, and leave the rest. There are no rules."
This is a life changing book and if you've got this far, I recommend you check it out!