Show Your Work!
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Show Your Work!

10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered

Lessons from my book ‘Show Your Work!’

1. You don’t have to be a genius.

“Find your voice, shout it from the rooftops, and keep doing it until the people that are looking for you find you.”
— Dan Harmon

We’re always being told find your voice. When I was younger, I never really knew what this meant. I used to worry a lot about voice, wondering if I had my own. But now I realize that the only way to find your voice is to use it. It’s hardwired, built into you.

2. Think process, not product.

“A lot of people are so used to just seeing the outcome of work. They never see the side of the work you go through to produce the outcome.”
—Michael Jackson

Traditionally, we’ve been trained to regard the creative process as something that should be kept to ourselves. We’re supposed to toil in secrecy, keeping our ideas and our work under lock and key, waiting until we have a magnificent product to show before we try to connect with others.

3. Share something small, every day.

“Put yourself, and your work, out there every day, and you’ll start meeting some amazing people.”
—Bobby Solomon

Once a day, after you’ve done your day’s work, find one little piece of your process that you can share. Where you are in your process will determine what that piece is. If you’re in the very early stages, share your influences and what’s inspiring you. If you’re in the middle of executing a project, write about your methods or share works in progress. If you’ve just completed a project, show the final product, share scraps from the cutting-room floor, or write about what you learned.

4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities.

“Do what you do best and link to the rest.”
—Jeff Jarvis

If you’re not ready to take the leap of sharing your own work with the world, you can share your tastes in the work of others.

5. Tell good stories.

“You got to make your case.”
—Kanye West

Artists love to trot out the tired line, “My work speaks for itself,” but the truth is, our work doesn’t speak for itself. Human beings want to know where things came from, how they were made, and who made them. 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.

6. Teach what you know.

“The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”
—Annie Dillard

The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to others. Share your reading list. Point to helpful reference materials. Create some tutorials and post them online. Use pictures, words, and video. Take people step-by-step through part of your process. As Kathy Sierra says, “Make people better at something they want to be better at.”

7. Don’t turn into human spam.

“It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others.”
—Susan Sontag

If you’re only pointing to your own stuff, you’re doing it wrong. If you want fans, you have to be a fan first. If you want to be noticed, you have to notice. Shut up and listen once in a while. Be thoughtful. Be considerate.

8. Learn to take a punch.

“I ain’t going to give up. Every time you think I’m one place, I’m going to show up someplace else. I come pre-hated. Take your best shot.”
—Cyndi Lauper

When you put your work out into the world, you have to be ready for the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more people come across your work, the more criticism you’ll face.

9. Sell out.

“Sellout . . . I’m not crazy about that word. We’re all entrepreneurs. To me, I don’t care if you own a furniture store or whatever—the best sign you can put up is SOLD OUT.”
—Bill Withers

The word sellout is spit out by the bitterest, smallest parts of ourselves. Some awful people use the term sellout to include any artist who dares to have any ambition whatsoever. They’ll say you’re a sellout if you try to make it outside your hometown. They say you’re a sellout if you buy better equipment. They’ll say you’re a sellout if you try anything new at all.

10. Stick around.

“Work is never finished, only abandoned.”
—Paul Valéry

Every career is full of ups and downs. When you’re in the middle of living out your life and career, you don’t know whether you’re up or down or what’s about to happen next. “If you want a happy ending,” actor Orson Welles wrote, “that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

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Sharing the creative process and bonus material from my new book.

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Austin Kleon

Author of STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST and other books. I make art with words and books with pictures: http://austinkleon.com