Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

Summary

Kleon encourages sharing your creative work and process as a strategy to learn, find your audience, and improve your work. He provides practical advice on documenting your process, teaching others, and becoming a better storyteller to help you share the work you love with a like-minded community.

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Key Takeaways

Share what you love

“Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you.”

If you’re a content creator, it’s tempting to try to think about what people want to hear about then create content to meet that need. I suggest the opposite. Start from what you know and what you care about, and share that. In doing so, you’ll operate from a place of joy and passion that will lead to higher quality, energizing work. And then the people who care about similar things or who find that work valuable will follow.

Just start

“I thought, I’m not going to sit here and wait for things to happen, I’m going to make them happen, and if people think I’m an idiot I don’t care.”

Whatever you want to do in life, the best time to start is now. Waiting for the perfect opportunity or for confirmation that your idea is good will lead to a paralyzing state of inaction. You don’t need validation for your idea to get started. Just get to work, see how you feel about, and keep going if it feels good.

Tell stories about your work

“Human beings want to know where things came from, how they were made, and who made them. The stories you tell about the work you do have a huge effect on how people feel and what they understand about your work, and how people feel and what they understand about your work effects how they value it.”

People want to know why you do the work you do. A good piece of work goes a lot further when you tell the story behind how and why you created it. We’re often motivated more by the stories behind what someone is doing versus the raw quality of what they’re producing. Don’t forget to share your story. It will make your work resonate in new and more powerful ways.

Teach people about your processes

“Teaching people doesn’t subtract value from what you do, it actually adds to it. When you teach someone how to do your work, you are, in effect, generating more interest in your work. People feel closer to your work because you’re letting them in on what you know.”

Don’t treat the method behind your work as a secret sauce. In sharing what has helped you do good work, you empower others to do the same and simultaneously increase interest in what you’re doing. It’s a win, win. Life is not a competition for a fixed pie; it’s a collaborative effort to increase the pie so we all have more to eat.

Be a good citizen in your community

“If you want fans, you have to be a fan first. If you want to be accepted by a community, you have to first be a good citizen of that community.”

Don’t treat the method behind your work as a secret sauce. In sharing what has helped you do good work, you empower others to do the same and simultaneously increase interest in what you’re doing. It’s a win, win. Life is not a competition for a fixed pie; it’s a collaborative effort to increase the pie so we all have more to eat.

Your work isn’t your life

“Keep your balance. You have to remember that your work is something you do, not who you are. This is especially hard for artists to accept, as so much of what they do is personal. Keep close to your family, friends, and the people who love you for you, not just the work.”

It’s easy to become consumed by your work and your mission, particularly as a creator. But always keep in mind that life is about balance. You can work hard, but don’t forget your relationships, your health, and the other areas of life that bring you joy. It’s not all about your work, no matter how good or noble it is.

Give back

“When you have success, it’s important to use any dough, clout, or platform you’ve acquired to help along the work of the people who’ve helped you get to where you are. Extol your teachers, your mentors, your heroes, your influences, your peers, and your fans. Give them a chance to share their own work. Throw opportunities their way.”

When you make it, remember to help elevate those people who helped you along the way. You can do that in any number of ways. Provide feedback on their work. Introduce them to a connection that will be valuable for them. Publicly acknowledge how they helped you. If you get in the habit of giving, you’ll feel better, create more value, and generate opportunities that will only enhance what you’re doing.

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