Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon - Summary & Notes

26 Dec 2021

5 min read

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon - Summary & Notes

The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. Teach What you know online even if it helps a single person.
  2. Share something small.
  3. You don't have to be an expert to share your work online, and once you do it will attract audience of people who care about the same stuff you do.

Who Should Read it?

If you have any interest in creativity (content creation of any sort) or business, then you should read this book as it will open your mind to new possibilities that you didn’t know existed.

How I Discovered it?

I discovered the book when I watched Ali Abdaal's video on it.

My Top 5 Quotes

  • Imagine if your next boss didn’t have to read your résumé because he already reads your blog. Imagine being a student and getting your first gig based on a school project you posted online.
  • Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you.
  • 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.
  • When people realise they’re being listened to, they tell you things.
  • Amateurs know that contributing something is better than contributing nothing.

How the Book Changed Me

The book changed my outlook on sharing my work online.

  • It made me more comfortable about sharing my work, my thoughts and my interests online.
  • It made me more comfortable about sharing my progress and the process to tackle issues rather than just the final product.
  • It made me generally more comfortable about learning and teaching in the public.
  • It made me realise that I don't need to be an expert on the specific topic in order to share my work online.

Summary

A New Way of Operating

In the digital age, it is no longer enough to make stuff and hope people will find it. You need to be findable, so carve a place online (i.e. a domain name like www.[your-name].com) where you share your work that might be helpful or interesting to anyone.

Think of your work as a never-ending process. Sharing your process with others will help other people learn things from your perspective.

Imagine if your next boss didn’t have to read your résumé because he already reads your blog. Imagine being a student and getting your first gig based on a school project you posted online.

1. You Don't have to be a Genius

Find a Scenius

We need to move away from the lone genius myth of creativity.

“Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.” —John Cleese

Brian Eno define “scenius” as ideas that come from a collective of highly talented individuals such as artists, curators and other contributors. This group forms an “ecology” of talent.

Be An Amateur

Most of us feel pressured that they should have a degree or formal qualification in order to share work and teach others. But the truth is, this isn’t always the case. Amateurs might not have formal training but they’re all lifelong learners and they make a point of learning in the open, so that others can learn from their failures and successes.

The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something.” Amateurs know that contributing something is better than contributing nothing.

The best way to get started when it comes to sharing your work is to think about what you want to learn and find a way of showing that in front of others.

If you want people to know about what you do and the things you care about, you have to share.

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

2. Think Process not Product

Become a documentarian of what you do

Documenting your process gives you the opportunity to evaluate your work and to use these documents in the future should you find yourself needing to repeat a similar process. Documenting your process has its own rewards as well.

Give what you have, To someone, it may be better than you dare to think -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

3. Share Something Small Everyday

Be open, share work that you want feedback on, but don’t share everything. The distinction between sharing and over-sharing is important.

When deciding whether to share a piece of work, ask yourself these questions: "Does this answer your question or point out the information you needed? Is this something you'd want to tell people about?"

If you think it's helpful or enjoyable, then you should share it. The act of sharing is one of generosity - you're putting something out there because you think it might be helpful or enjoyable to someone on the other side.

Build A good (domain) name

“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.” —Andy Baio

4. Open Your Cabinet of Curiosities

Credit Is Always due

It's always good practice to give credit to people who've helped you find really cool work. You can also mention your source of inspiration so people browsing your profile can trace back to it.

5. Tell Good Stories

Work Doesn’t speak for Itself

If you want to be more effective when sharing your work, you need to become a better storyteller as people want to read good stories.

Structure is Everything

The structure of a story is what holds it together. It dictates where the reader's attention will go and when they will stop reading. A poorly structured story will not be able to keep the reader engaged or interested in what is happening.

6. Teach What you Know

The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to someone else. Sharing your knowledge is one of the most powerful things that you can do. That's why it's important to teach others what you've learned, which you can do by creating some tutorials and posting them online. Take people step-by-step through part of your process to generate interest in your work. As blogger Kathy Sierra says, “Make people better at something they want to be better at.”

7. Don't turn into human spam

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. If you’re only pointing to your own stuff online, you’re doing it wrong. You have to be a connector.

“When people realize they’re being listened to, they tell you things.” —Richard Ford

You want hearts, not eyeballs

Stop focussing on how many followers you have and start focussing on the quality of the people who follow you

The Vampire Test

“Whatever excites you, go do it. Whatever drains you, stop doing it” - Derek Sivers

8. Learn to take a punch

Most people often avoid certain things because they're afraid of vulnerability, afraid of getting out of their comfort zone. If you do this, you'll likely never truly connect with people or have your work noticed.

Compulsive avoidance of embarrassment is a form of suicide. - Colin Marshall.

9. Sell Out

We need to get over our “starving artist” romanticism for many artists. If you aren’t charging for your work, it may be because you are too scared to think about the idea of money or just don’t know how to go about doing so. Money can even sometimes help creative work by giving an artist more independence

Keep a mailing list

Building a mailing list is a great way to build an audience and be able to offer them your products or services in the future. While there are people who have made multimillion dollar businesses off their mailing lists, we don't want you to do anything drastic. Creating an email list online with great content for free is a simple method that can lead to increasing traffic over time. When you have something remarkable to sell or share, send them an email letting them know.

Pay It forward

When you have success, it is important to use the opportunity to give back to people who have helped you get to where you are. praise your teachers, mentors and your fans. Give them a chance to share their own work

10. Stick Around

Don’t Quit your show

Keep doing your work, and keep sharing.

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