The form of what you share doesn’t matter. Your daily dispatch can be anything you want – a blog post, an email, a tweet, a YouTube video, or some other little bit of media. There’s no on-size-fits-all plan for everybody.
– Austin Kleon
I am a fan of Brain Pickings (and on Twitter, Facebook), the creation (and brain) of Maria Popova (and on Twitter). Earlier this year, Popova wrote an article on her read and take-away from the book – Show Your Work – written by Austin Kleon (on web, Twitter, tumblr).
Popova’s article – How to Master on the Art of Getting Noticed: Austin Kleon’s Advice to Aspiring Artists – How to balance the contagiousness of raw enthusiasm with the humility of knowing we’re all in this together – is wonderfully thoughtful and dense with her interpretation of Kleon’s writing, references to related topics, and links to other posts related to sharing one’s creative pursuits.
About this post. I share quotes from Kleon’s book.* I purchased and finished reading this book about a month ago, with a draft blog post of excerpts languishing in my draft file. Yesterday, I met with my friend Radhika (and fellow knuckleballer!) yesterday. Given our mutual interest in and excitement about co-creating what we are calling Colorized Improv, this is a great time to wrap up this post. (Thanks Austin Kleon for a nice read.)
When, What, How, Why
From Austin Kleon website on Show Your Work, he has written ten chapters. Within each chapter, he shares his perspectives, suggested activities, stories, and others’ quotes relevant to his message.
Kleon’s overall message reminds me of a post I wrote in September 2014 Share – Catch and Release Knowledge, where I included a description of an approach for gathering, processing, and sharing information – Harold Jarche’s Personal Knowledge Mastery. For Kleon and Jarche, the end result is the same – get your work out to communities.
There’s a healthier way of thinking about creativity that the musician Brian Eno refers to as “scenius.” Under this model, great ideas are often birthed by a group of creative individuals—artists, curators, thinkers, theorists, and other tastemakers—who make up an “ecology of talent.”.
The following are select excerpts from each of Kleon’s ten chapters that are “sticking” with me –
1. You don’t have to be a genius.
:: Find a scenius. :: Amateurs are not afraid to make mistakes or look ridiculous in public. … Amateurs might lack 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. :: Be an amateur. :: We’re always being told find your voice … But now I realize that the only way to find your voice is to use it. It’s hardwired, built into you. Talk about the things you love. Your voice will follow. :: Read obituaries. :: Obituaries aren’t really about death; they’re about life. ::
2. Think process, not product.
:: Take people behind the scenes. :: Audiences not only want to stumble across great work, but they, too, long to be creative and part of the creative process. By letting go of our egos and sharing our process, we allow for the possibility of people having an ongoing connection with us and our work, which helps us move more of our product. :: Become a documentarian of what you do. :: Whether you share it or not, documenting and recording your process as you go along has its own rewards: You’ll start to see the work you’re doing more clearly and feel like you’re making progress. And when you’re ready to share, you’ll have a surplus of material to choose from. ::
3. Share something small every day.
:: Send out a daily dispatch. :: Where you are in your process will determine what that piece is. … share you influences … what’s inspiring you … your methods … works in progress … final product … what you learned … tell stories about how people are interacting with your work. :: The act of sharing is one of generosity – you’re putting something out there because you think it might be helpful or entertaining to someone on the other side of the screen. :: Turn your flow into stock. :: Don’t think of your website as a self-promotion machine, think of it as a self-invention machine. … Fill your website with your work and your ideas and the stuff you care about. ::
4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities.
:: No guilty pleasures. :: Being open and honest about what you like is the best way to connect with people who like those things, too. :: Credit is always due. :: Don’t share things you can’t properly credit. Find the right credit, or don’t share. ::
5. Tell good stories.
:: Work doesn’t speak for itself. :: 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. :: If you want to be more effective when sharing yourself and your work, you need to become a better storyteller. You need to know what a good story is and how to tell one. :: Structure is everything. :: Dan Harmon’s story circle (described on Kleon’s blog over here). :: Kurt Vonnegut’s story graphs (described on Kleon’s website over here) :: Gustav Freytag’s pyramid :: Talk about yourself at parties. :: You should be able to explain your work to a kindergartner, a senior citizen, and everybody in between. ::
6. Teach what you know.
:: Share your trade secrets. :: Think about what you can share from your process that would inform the people you’re trying to reach. :: 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. ::
7. Don’t turn into human spam.
:: As every writer knows, if you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader first. :: … human spam … They don’t want to listen to your ideas; they want to tell you theirs. :: You have to be a connector. … Be an open node. :: You want hearts, not eyeballs. :: But who you know is largely dependent on who you are and what you do, and the people you know can’t do anything for you if you’re not doing good work. :: The vampire test. (more on Kleon’s blog over here) :: If, after hanging out with someone you feel worn out and depleted, that person is a vampire. If, after hanging out with someone you still feel full of energy, that person is not a vampire. :: Identify your fellow knuckleballers. :: … your fellow knuckleballers. These are your real peers – the people who share your obsessions, the people who share a similar mission to your won, the people with whom you share a mutual respect. … Keep them as close as you can. :: Meet up in meatspace. ::
8. Learn to take a punch.
:: When you put your work out in to the world, you have to be ready for the good, the bad, and the ugly. :: Let ’em take their best shot. :: You want feedback from people who care about you and what you do. :: A troll is a person who isn’t interested in improvising your work, only provoking you with hateful, aggressive, or upsetting talk. :: Don’t feed the trolls. :: … the worst troll is the one that lives in your head. ::
9. Sell out.
:: People need to eat and pay the rent. :: Pass around the hat. :: … be open about my process, connect with my audience, and ask them to support me by buying the things I’m selling. :: Keep a mailing list. :: Yet a life of creativity is all about change – moving forward, taking chances, exploring new frontiers. :: If an opportunity comest along that will allow you to do more of the kind of work you want to do, say Yes. If an opportunity comes along that would mean more money, but less of the kind of work you want to do, say No. :: Pay it forward. :: You just have to be as generous as you can, but selfish enough to get your work done. ::
10. Stick around.
:: The people who get what they’re after are very often the ones who just stick around long enough. It’s very important not to quit prematurely. :: Don’t quit your show. :: Whether you’ve just won big or lost bit, you still have to face the question “What’s next?” :: Chain-smoke. :: Instead of taking a break in between projects, waiting for feedback, and worrying about what’s next, use the end of one project to light up the next one. Just do the work that’s in front of you, and when it’s finished, ask yourself what you missed, what you could’ve done better, or what you couldn’t get to, and jump right into the next project. :: Go away so you can come back. :: … at some point, you might burn out and need to go looking for a match. The best time to find one is while taking a sabbatical. :: Thankfully, we can all take practical sabbaticals – daily, weekly, or monthly breaks where we walk away from our work completely. ::
Start over. Begin again. :: When you feel like you’ve learned whatever there is to learn from what you’re doing, it’s time to change course and find something new to learn so that you can move forward. :: When you throw out old work, what you’re really doing is making room for new work. ::
What are you working on right now that you can tag #showyourwork? *Who wants to have my copy of Kleon’s book?