Akash Mitra

show-your-work-cover

Book summary – Show Your Work (by Austin Kleon)

🔎A quick snippet of the book

Show Your Work is a manuscript of curated thoughts on how to literally “SHOW YOUR WORK” to the whole world by manifesting all the available resources that are at your fingertips, especially in this era of digital creativity. This book is a little bit different from the typical self-help or non-fiction books that you come across every other day. The author, Austin Kleon presents his thoughts not only in words, but also through full page illustrations which you will come across quite frequently as you flip through the pages. This makes the book aesthetically pleasing and keeps the readers on edge.

🎭Who should read it?

I think, everyone should read it. It doesn’t matter whether you are a complete beginner at something, or, a professional artist, this book is curated for every person who is willing to take their creative genes out in the open.

Even if you consider yourself not interested in creativity our putting yourself out there, you should still read this because it might open up some closed doors in your mind and present you with numerous concealed possibilities that you never knew existed.

🙋‍♂️My personal takeout

I never wanted to write any book reviews on my blog, but here I am, trying to weave words into a story for you to get motivated and give this book a read. So, now you might get a slight idea of why I am talking sunshine and roses about the book.

📚Summary

You don’t have to be a genius

Find a Scenius

Collaboration is the way forward and the lone genius is a myth. We need to support each other’s creativity and grow as a whole ecology of talents and not as an individual creator. Looking at each other’s work, stealing ideas, and contributing in other people’s journey are the practices that we need to adopt.

Be an Amateur

You don’t really have to be an expert to teach anything to anyone. When you are in the beginner’s zone, your mind is open to numerous possibilities. On the contrary, an expert would have just a few. Sometimes, an amateur can be best taught by an amateur.

Look for something you want to know about and learn it in front of others. Don’t forget to share the process and the milestones or success you are hitting. More importantly, share your failures and help others who are in the same process.

You can’t find your voice, if you don’t use it

Don’t be afraid to talk about the things you like. The only way to find your voice is by continuously using it, because, it is already built into you. Moreover, in today’s world, we have plenty of opportunities to use our voice especially with the digital era. Adding to that, nowadays, a work doesn’t exist if it is not online.

Read obituaries

Obituaries are near-death experiences for cowards. It is okay to think about death because that is when you actually begin to want to live your life on this planet and do something decent with it.

Think process, not product

Take people behind the scenes

This idea was utterly impossible in the pre-digital era but with the onset of YouTube and Facebook sharing anything is a child’s play. Human beings are interested in other human beings and their work. It is really important that you give them a feel of the journey of the creative process that you want to showcase. The curiosity drives audience

Become a documentarian of what you do

Gather your thoughts about the process of the work that you are doing and create a work journal which can be in the form of blog posts, YouTube videos or anything you want them to be. Write your thoughts down on a notebook, capture various instances of your work at different stages. Apart from the mere sake of putting your work out there, you will also have a sense of making progress as you go along.

Share something small everyday

Send out daily dispatch

The day is the only unit of time that is feasibly tangible at any point because it has a rhythm of the sun going up in the morning and going down at night. After you have completed your work for the day, pick up a snippet of your work or process and share it with the world. It doesn’t make sense when you share a picture of your lunch or latte, instead, share your work.

You don’t have to worry about being on every other social media platform. Pick one or two based on the work you do and stick to that. You can always shift to other platforms later at any point of time.

The ‘So What?’ Test

Ask the question ‘So What?’ before sharing anything. Once your work is online, it can be and will be copied throughout the internet. Therefore, refrain from posting anything that you are not sure about or you don’t want anyone to see yet. At the end of the day you are putting things out there which might benefit someone or entertain someone.

Turn your flow into stock

Flow is the feeds of twitter and Facebook that reminds people you exist. Stock is more curated and organized stuff that you produce and is interesting in few months as it is today. Your stock is best made by collecting, organizing, and expanding upon your flow. Treat social media sites a public notebooks.

Build a good domain

Social media sites are good but may disappear at some point of time. So, stop completely relying on social media and get yourself a domain preferably www.[yourname].com. If .com extension is not available, just take what ever you get (.in, .co, .co.in, .io, .me, etc.). Watch some YouTube videos on how to install WordPress to your domain and start writing a blog. It might take some time but it’s worth the investment.

I had also learned to build a website from scratch. So if I can do it, surely you can too.

Open up your cabinet of curiosities

Don’t be a hoarder

We get into creative work because we have good taste. Initially, there can be a gap between your taste (what you actually think is great) and the quality of work you produce. So, before we put our own work out there, we can curate our taste i.e. work of other people for others. Your influences clue people in to who you are and what you do, or maybe even more than your work.

No guilty pleasures

Don’t let anyone else make you feel guilty about what you genuinely enjoy. When you share your taste and your influences, have the guts to own all of it. Be open and honest about what you like and don’t give in to the pressure of self-edit too much.

Credit is always due

Credit is the most valuable and fundamental part of sharing other people’s work. Attribution lets people know the roots of your work and they too get a chance to be inspired by your inspiration. Preferably, provide a link to the original work that you are attributing in your work. (example: Thank you Austin Kleon for writing this book)

Tell good stories

Work doesn’t speak for itself

There can be two identical works (for instance two paintings of the same thing), but, the stories and the emotions behind the two works could be completely different. Your work won’t speak for itself, rather, you have to tell the story behind your work. The people’s minds are curious to know where it came from, how they made it, and who made it.

Structure is everything

Nearly all stories have a basic plot of a character wanting something (emergence of an idea), goes after it despite opposition (puts in hard work for execution), and so arrives at a win, lose, or draw (releasing the idea out into he world). Despite everyone loving a good story, storytelling is an art that is difficult to cultivate. The more you tell them, the better they get.

Talk about yourself at parties

Talk about yourself with others if they ask. Tell the truth with dignity and self-respect. Keep your bio sweet and short. Take it as an opportunity to connect with someone who might be interested in your work. Anticipate more questions and answer patiently and politely

Teach what you know

Share your trade secret

Teaching and learning is the key to develop interest and knowledge in any work. Moreover, teaching doesn’t take away what you already know, it adds to it. When you teach your work to someone, people will connect with you more and there is an intuition that you only gain through the repetition of practice. You too receive an education return

Don’t turn into human spam

Shut up and listen

If you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader first. Try to be the connector rather than only pointing to your stuff online. Be an open node. If you want to get, you have to give.

You want hearts, not eyeballs

Don’t worry about the statistics of how many followers you have and don’t waste your time reading how to get more followers. Worry about the quality of the people who follow you. Be interested in work, otherwise you won’t be interesting for other people. If you want followers, be someone worth following.

Don’t be a creep and never ever ask people to follow you. You will have followers once you resonate with their hearts.

The Vampire Test

Do what excites you. Don’t do stuff that is not exciting enough for you and don’t be around people who sucks out your energy. If you find anyone who is draining your energy, create a distance from that person or completely banish him or her from your life forever.

Identify your fellow knuckleballers

Identify you real peers who are your fellow knuckleballers. Keep them close and nurture your relationships with them. Collaborate with like-minded people sharing interests similar to yours. Share your secrets with them because there is going to be only a handful of these knuckleballers.

Meet up in meatspace

Meetup with your online friends and share ideas in person. Meeting people online is better but turning them into real life acquaintances is much better.

Learn to take the punch

Let ’em take their best shot

Criticism is an important part of sharing your work with the world. Don’t lose motivation from criticism because your work is something you do, not who you are. Every word that comes your way, mould it into something constructive.

Don’t feed the trolls

You need to get feedback from people who care about you and what you do. Don’t be affected by the trolls who have no interest in improving your work and is only provoking with hateful, aggressive and upsetting comments. Block them. Nothing will be gained by engaging with these people.

Sell out

Even the Renaissance had to be funded

We need to get over our “starving artist” romanticism. It’s absolutely okay to charge money for your work. That won’t hamper your creativity. But at the same time, don’t lose value as an artist.

Pass around the hat

When you start getting some audience and you think that your product is truly worth something, you might want to eventually turn your audience into patrons. You can of course ask them to donate money for your work keeping a fair price tag.

Keep a mailing list

Keep your own mailing list and share bits and pieces of your works through emails. Eventually, it might come in handy some day. Don’t spam their inbox with unwanted stuff. Build your list and treat it with respect.

Make more work for yourself

If you get an opportunity to do more of the kind of work you want to do, say ‘Yes’. But, if an opportunity comes along that would mean more money, but, less of the kind of work that you want to do, say ‘No’.

Pay it forward

When you are successful, help people who helped you get where you are. Be generous to people who reach out to you.

Stick around

Don’t quit your show

You can’t rely on success, you can only hope that opportunities will arise, and when it does, you need to jump on and take the ride. There are going to be ups and downs in every career but you can’t quit and give up. Opportunities come to those who stick around long enough o grab them.

Chain-smoke

All the artists who have managed to achieve a lifelong career have been able to persevere, regardless of success or failure. Use the end of one project to light up the next one. Just do the work that’s in front of you, analyze it after it’s finished and jump right into the next one.

Go away so you can come back

Take a break if you think you are burning out. Go take a walk, exercise for a while, go outside to get fresh air. Rejuvenate your mind and come back with a fresh brain

Start over

When you feel like you have learned whatever there is to learn from what you’re doing, shift to something else and learn a different set of skills. You can’t be content with mastery, you have to be the student again and start from scratch.

Recommended Reading

  1. Book summary – Deep Work (by Cal Newport)
  2. Book summary – Steal Like an Artist (by Austin Kleon)

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