Share your brushstrokes

With Show Your Work, writer Austin Kleon created a book for people who like making things but hate the idea of sharing them.

Whether it’s fear of being criticized or thinking that selling your creations is evil, Show Your Work discusses why overcoming the aversion to share your creative work is so important.

Austin writes that one of the main reasons why you should share your work is so that you can be discovered.

He also says that all the people he looks up to share regularly as part of their routine:

“By generously sharing their ideas and their knowledge, they often gain an audience that they can then leverage when they need it — for fellowship, feedback, or patronage.”

Sharing creates a form of positive social currency. People don’t connect well with products. People connect well with you.

By involving people in your process, you become more approachable. You give people an opportunity to see what you made while you’re making it, creating a sense of, “we’re in this together”.

It’s this sense that turns a visitor into a subscriber into a fan.

But this is not the only reason you should share your work with others. I ran into one of Austin’s tweets the other day that quoted Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s view on the importance of sharing your work as you go:

“Artists frequently hide the steps that lead to their masterpieces. They want their work and their career to be shrouded in the mystery that it all came out at once. It’s called hiding the brushstrokes, and those who do it are doing a disservice to people who admire their work and seek to emulate them.
If you don’t get to see the notes, the rewrites, and the steps, it’s easy to look at a finished product and be under the illusion that it just came pouring out of someone’s head like that. People who are young, or still struggling, can get easily discouraged, because they can’t do it like they thought it was done.
An artwork is a finished product, and it should be, but I always swore to myself that I would not hide my brushstrokes.”

Our team at Unsplash is currently making a book. We’ve never made a book before so it’s scary. But we’ve still decided to share our process along the way.

And while we hope sharing our process will potentially help people find and connect with our book, we also hope we may help others who have thought about creating a book or something else.

We know there’s lots of stuff we’re going to have to do that we have no idea how to do. But we’re going to have to figure it out.

We’re going to be inspired by things. We’re going to run into problems. We’re not going to know exactly what we’re doing most of the time. But if we make the time to document what we’re going through and share it, maybe it will be helpful.

Maybe there’s some mistake we make you can learn from or something we did that inspires you so you can apply it to something you’re working on.

Sharing your process may help your work be discovered, but sharing things in public also helps inspire others, making the act of creation feel more approachable.

If you’re interested in what we’re doing but we didn’t share our process with you, we’d be selling you short.

Here’s our brushstrokes.