Show Your Work! By Austin Kleon

Show Your Work! By Austin Kleon


In the information age, it's not enough to be good - you have to be findable. It's an entirely new way of operating for those of us who are not comfortable with self-promotion. Some of the best content creators that I follow today do not just show us the clean and polished product. The share the process with us - the good, the bad and the ugly. They're constantly sharing what they are working on, engaging within their community for feedback and putting their ideas out in public forums.

1. You don't have to be a genius

It's easy for us to look at content creators today and assume they've made it here all on their own - but the lone genius is a myth. Great work isn't created in a vacuum, it's often a group of creative individuals who have built up this community of talent - through idea sharing, new relationships and engaging conversations.

"Raw enthusiasm is contagious". Be an amateur - and wear it proudly on your sleeve. It's not something we often want to be associated with when trying to grow our personal brand or business, but it actually opens up so many more possibilities. Amateurs know that it's better that they are contributing something than nothing. They are lifelong learners willing to try new things and share their successes as well as failures.

It's in the title but SHOW YOUR WORK. You'll never be able to find your voice if you do not ever try to use it - the best creators have honed this skill over years, but it all started with showing their work.

2. Be process driven - not product

It's all in the process - people want to see how the sausage gets made.

  • As human beings we are inherently curious. Take people behind the scenes and show them the creative process, let go of your ego and fears - share the process and learn from their feedback.
  • Document! Whether you share it or not, find a way to document what you are doing every day. Whether that means starting a work journal, writing your ideas into a notebook or recording audio / video content to reflect back on later. Find a way that works for you, and you can always look back at that content to use for sharing your work.

3. Share something small every single day

Take little steps every day in sharing your work whether it's what has inspired you, techniques you have applied or the learnings after you've built the end product.

Know the balance of oversharing vs sharing. The act of sharing is one of generosity - you are sharing it because you want someone to people able to engage with that content and find it helpful or entertaining. Appreciate the time your followers are taking to engage with you - spend their time wisely.

Flow vs Stock: Flow is the daily feed of content - tweets, posts, updates that remind people that you're still there. This content won't always stand the test of time, but that's where Stock comes in. Stock is the durable stuff - it will be as interesting in 2, 4, 6, 12 months as it is now. Maintain your flow whilst building your stock.

4. Cabinet of Curiosities

Share what influences and inspires you - this helps people understand who you are and what you do. When you are sharing others content - always give them their credit. They have worked hard to create their content, and they should deserve the props that go with that. If you can't find the original author - don't share it if you don't know who to credit.

You won't like everything you come across on the internet, but you can find treasure in other people's trash. Don't feel guilty about things that you genuinely enjoy, be open and honest with people and you'll find that small collection of people who love it too!

5. Tell a good story

The structure of a good story is everything. Almost all stories go through the same plot structure, Author John Gardner says "A character wants something (you get a great idea), goes after it despite opposition (going through the hard work of executing the idea), and so arrives at a win, lose, or draw (releasing the idea out into the world)."

Your work doesn't speak for itself - you need to be able to compel people to engage with your work by telling them where it came from, how it was made and who made it.

Don't be afraid to talk about yourself at parties. Use each experience as an opportunity to connect with someone by honestly and humbly explaining what it is you do.

6. Share your knowledge

Don't be afraid to share your trade secrets. That sounds scary, but the reality is that by teaching others your "secrets" you are adding value to your work, not subtracting from it. Constantly be paying it forward, and educating people on your work.

Just because you are teaching someone how you made the sauce - doesn't mean that they will be able to replicate it straight away. You became a master most likely because you practiced every single day. You are helping people start their day one journey to making the sauce.

7. Don't be a human spam bot

Shut up and listen - the best advice that you can be given. As mentioned in point 1 - good work isn't created in a vacuum. The experience of making art is a two way street - If you wan't to be a writer, you have to be a reader first.

If you want "fans" you first have to be a fan. Remember, it's not about the quantity of your followers, it's the quality. Find your tribe - build meaningful connections and share your work/secrets with the inner circle.

Don't let anyone suck the energy out of you. The best relationships leave you feeling energised - don't waste your time on those that leave you feeling exhausted and depleted. It's not a healthy relationship.

8. Learn to take a punch

Not literally. With sharing your work with the world you have to be ready to take the good, the bad and the ugly. Your work is something you do, but it's not the only thing that defines who you are - you have to roll with the punches and keep yourself balanced to move forward.

The worst troll is the one that's inside your head. Don't feed it with the negative energy - delete it or block it. Get the negativity out of your visibility.

9. Sell Out

Be ambitious. Think bigger. Always look for new opportunities. Remember to celebrate the people around you and their achievements.

Be forward thinking - keep a mailing list to share your work. Even if you have nothing to sell or share right now, always collect emails for the future.

Pay it forward. When you are having success, be as generous as you can whilst remaining selfish enough that you can still get your work done.

10. Stick around

Don't quit your own show - but maybe take a break sometimes. We all have ups and downs in our lives, but things can change in an instant. Suffering with burnout? Take a sabbatical - this can be the best way to find new inspiration. Sometimes the best ideas are cultivated in these breaks that can be implemented when it's time to get back to work.

When you feel like you've learnt whatever there is to learn, change course and find something new to learn that will help you move forward.

Final Words

This was an incredible read, one of my favourite books with actionable tips on how to make yourself present online and help yourself be found. It's certainly something I've got some work to do on, but excited for the journey to showing my work.

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