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Show Your Work! Paperback – March 6, 2014
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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Forget the lone genius myth, says Kleon, author of the best-seller, Steal like an Artist (2012). His 10-step journey in this beginner’s guide to self-promotion emphasizes audience building and explains the how and why of such approaches as thinking about process rather than product, sharing something each day, teaching what you know, learning to take a punch, and developing staying power. Kleon’s use of artists’ quotes, photographs, and organizational diagrams enhances the text as he reminds readers of how interested people are in the creative process. Become a documentarian . . . start a journal . . . keep a scrapbook . . . see the work you’re doing more clearly and feel . . . progress. When you’re ready to share, you’ll have a surplus of material. Put work out there and let people take their best shot. Then make even more work and keep sharing it until you learn that criticism can’t hurt and may help you. And stick with it. Kleon’s powerful advice makes this small-format book not-at-all little. --Whitney Scott
"[Show Your Work is] timeless; readers can return to it repeatedly throughout life and still glean useful ideas and tips... Anyone starting out (or starting over)...will find upbeat encouragement here."
“Some people are natural self-promoters. For others, it’s painfully difficult to put their work out there. In this creatively designed pocket-sized book, Kleon offers the latter group effective strategies that allow them to share their work without leaving their comfort zone…. Kleon’s advice is sassy and spot-on.”
“[The] subtitle could just as easily be, ‘How to Self-promote Without Being a Jerkface.’ It’s an incredibly useful and compulsively readable short book.”
“Kleon addresses with equal parts humility, honesty, and humor one of the quintessential questions of the creative life: How do you get ‘discovered’? In some ways, the book is the mirror-image of Kleon’s debut ― rather than encouraging you to ‘steal’ from others… it offers a blueprint to making your work influential enough to be theft-worthy.”
“A must-read for anyone involved in the creative process.”
“Kleon’s powerful advice makes this small-format book not-at-all little.”
“In this motivating book, packed with smart approaches, ideas and quotes, Kleon teaches you how best to navigate through creative work in the present day. . . . A certain and deserved bestseller.”
“It’s not often that I find myself reviewing a book that I can say has already changed my life. . . . At a crucial turn in this fabulous little wallop of a book comes the simple directive, ‘Share something small every day.’ That ‘something’ oughtn’t be your Instagrammed latte or a selfie, but something ‘useful or interesting’ about your work. Put enough somethings out there, and a lone artist or entrepreneur can soon be a productive part of a creative community.”
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- Put your work out there, share it with others regularly
- Meet up with people in real life, not just on the Internet
- Don't be afraid to make money off your creative work
- Keep going
- Maintain an e-mail list
- Give proper credit when you refer to other people's work
I won't spoil the rest--if you do read the book, you'll see that I'm not simplifying anything in that list. He goes into zero detail about *how* you should do any of those things, which leads me to believe that he considers the suggestions themselves as worthy of paid publication. Even as free blog posts, most of these chapters would leave me asking, "And...?" This is a catchy write-up of the most banal common knowledge on the topic.
I loved Steal Like An Artist (and still do), but this book was not worth the money or the time I spent on it. Big disappointment. I will probably still buy his next book, but I hope I won't have to return it like this one.
When I realized what Austin Kleon's newest book was about, I knew I had to have it. The theme is Show Your Work. How apropos. Once I had it in my hands, there was so much for me to learn. Here are a few of my favorite lessons from each chapter:
1. You don't have to be a genius.
Anyone can share their art. There are no limits here.
"You can't find your voice if you don't use it."
"Raw enthusiasm is contagious."
2. Think process, not product.
It's not about the final product; it's about the journey.
"We're not all artists or astronauts. A lot of us go about our work and feel like we have nothing to show for it at the end of the day. But whatever the nature of your work, there is an art to what you do, and there are people who would be interested in that art, if only you presented it to them in the right way."
3. Share something small every day.
You don't have to post something big. Share small things on a regular basis and you'll keep up your momentum.
"Put yourself, and your work, out there every day and you'll start meeting some amazing people." - Bobby Solomon
You should be continually asking yourself this question: "What are you working on?"
Whatever you do, do not overshare.
4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities.
If someone shares something and you like it, share it, too.
"Your influences are all worth sharing because they clue people in to who you are and what you do--sometimes more than your own work."
5. Tell good stories.
If someone asks you about yourself, tell the truth and tell it with dignity and self-respect. You have to own who and what you are.
Ultimately, humans just want to connect.
6. Teach what you know.
Pass it on. By teaching, you may learn something yourself.
"The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to others."
7. Don't turn into human spam.
Just because you have the power to share does not mean you should overshare.
"Make the stuff you love and talk about the stuff you love and you'll attract people who love that kind of stuff."
8. Learn to take a punch.
Learning to take constructive criticism is one of the most important skills you can learn. You need to be able to put yourself out there and take a hit once in a while.
"Compulsive avoidance of embarrassment is a form of suicide." - Colin Marshall
"Your work is something you do, not who you are."
9. Sell out.
Sellout is a dirty word. You have to make your money somewhere.
"You just have to be as generous as you can, but selfish enough to get your work done."
10. Stick around.
Don't give up. You might have to keep working at it for a long while before you get where you want to be. The trick is to never stop trying.
"Don't quit your show. Life is very hard without a show, kids." - Dave Chappelle
Never stop. Done with one project? Move onto the next immediately. Never lose momentum.
Every time I crack open a book by Austin Kleon, I take a piece of advice with me. It doesn't matter if I've never read it before or if I've cracked that spine open a thousand times before. There is always something new to learn. I highly suggest you invest in your future by getting a copy of Show Your Work now. While you're at it, grab a copy of Steal Like An Artist if you haven't already. It's worth it.
Kleon's two books can be of incalculable value to those who need help with creating content (whatever its nature and extent may be) and then help with attracting the interest and support of those on whom the success of the offering depends. It could be a product, a service, or both. Its target market could be singles, seniors, the unemployed or under-employed, new parents, do-it-yourselfers, beginners at whatever...you get the idea.
So, how to become findable? First, Kleon explains the need for developing a new mindset, one that will enable the reluctant self-promoter to think differently so that she or he can then operate differently. Here's his key point: "Almost all of the people I look up to and try to steal from today, regardless of their profession, have built [begin italics] sharing [end italics] into their routine. Next, he urges his reader to find what the musician Brian Eno characterizes as a "scenius": a group of creative individuals who make up an ecology of talent. "What I love about the idea of scenius is that it makes room in the story of creativity for the rest of us: the people who don't consider ourselves geniuses."
Then Kleon suggests ten specific observations and initiatives, devoting a separate chapter to each. The purpose of the first, "You don't have to be a genius," is an important reassurance that David and Tom Kelley also provide in their recently published book, Creative Confidence: Believing that only geniuses are creative "is a myth that far too many people share. This book is about the opposite of that myth. It is about what we call 'creative confidence.' And at its foundation is the belief that we are [begin italics] all [end italics] creative...Creative confidence is a way of seeing that potential and your place in the world more clearly, unclouded by anxiety and doubt. We hope you'll join us on our quest to embrace creative confidence in our lives. Together, we can all make the world a better place."
The other nine call for initiatives that almost anyone can take. Kleon suggests the most important do's and don'ts to keep in mind. Two key elements are repeatedly emphasized. First, share generously and continuously with those who comprise an appropriate (key word) ecology of talent: people who share common interest and goals, yes, but also common questions and concerns. Share what will be of greatest interest and value to them. Also, be yourself. Why? I like Oscar Wilde's response best: "Everyone else is taken." Each person is a unique work-in-progress. That's hardly an original insight but well-worth repeating.
Let's allow Austin Kleon the final observations: "Human beings are interested in other human beings and what other human beings do. Audiences today not only want to stumble across great work, they, too, long to be part of the creative process. By showing people your 'behind-the-scenes footage" [i.e. portions of incomplete and imperfect work], they can see the person behind the products, and they can better form a relationship with you and your work." So show it...and your authentic self in process.