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Austin Kleon - Show your work

My biggest takeaways

Put the process piece of your work out on the internet, for free. Don't think of it as self-promotion. Just be good. Be consistent. Share bits and pieces of your ideas and what you're learning online. Your audience will find you.

3 favourite quotes

"The best way to get started on the path to sharing your work is to thing about what you want to learn, and make a commitment to learning it in front of others."

"Your influences are all worth sharing because they cue people in to who you are and what you do."

"You can't be content with mastery, you have to push yourself to become a student again."

My notes

1. You don't have to be a genius

  • good work isn't created in a vacuum

  • creativity is always the result of collaboration, when likeminded people connect to each other

  • scenius: a whole scene of people who support each other, copy from each other, steal from and contribute to one another's work

  • being an amateur is the best, because amateurs are not afraid of mistakes

  • doing nothing is far away from doing something. Contributing something -even if it's far from good - is always better than contributing nothing

  • you must use your voice in order to truly find it

2. Think process, not product

  • turn the invisible scraps of your work into something other people can see

  • be open about the whole process, even if it's messy

  • start a work journal, write the thought process down, keep a scrapbook, take photos

3. Share something small every day

  • focus on days, and find a little piece of your process that is shareable at the end of the day

  • make the commentary of your process available without worrying it being not perfect

  • use the "so what" test before publishing anything. Publish it knowing that your mother and boss will read it, too

  • don't overshare

  • turn your daily flows into bigger stocks

  • maintain the flow while working on the stock in the background

  • nothing beats your own online space. Build a website, fill it with your work, your ideas and the stuff you care about

4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities

  • be a curator, share your inspirations, learnings, books you read, things you collect, movies you see, who's work you admire, who you steal ideas from...

  • uncover hidden gems, find value in other's trash

  • always give proper credit and a great attribution when sharing the work of others

5. Tell good stories

  • work doesn't speak for itself, you have to become a better storyteller

  • when shown something, people's assessment of it is deeply affected by what you tell them about it

  • good stories have structure (initial problem - work done to solve the problem - solution)

  • when someone asks you what do you do treat it as an opportunity to connect with them and tell your true story

6. Teach what you know

  • you can share your trade secrets, because the technique might be simple, but it takes years to master

  • be humble, remember that you started out as an amateur as well, so help and support everyone who's just starting out, too, and come to you with questions

  • just because you know the master's technique, it doesn't mean you're going to be able to emulate it right away

  • out-reach your competition, be informative, educational and promotional

  • share your techniques, tools and materials

  • the minute you learn something, turn it around and teach it to others

  • share your reading list

  • point out helpful reference materials

  • create tutorials

7. Don't turn into human spam

  • some people don't want to listen to your ideas, they just want to tell you theirs

  • be a contributor

  • answer questions, ask for recommendations, chat with followers, Shut up and listen

  • you have to be a connector. If you want fans, you have to become a fan first

  • worry about the quality of the people who follow you not the quantity

  • never ask people to follow you, your tribe will find you

  • make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love. and you'll attract the people who love that kind of stuff

  • take the vampire test: if you find yourself in the presence of energy-sucking vampires, banish them from your life forever

  • when you run into real peers, do what you can to nurture your relationship with them. Sing their praises to the universe

  • throw meetups for your online community and make IRL friends

8. Learn to take a punch

  • don't take criticism personally

  • be ready for the good, the bad and the ugly

  • don't feed the trolls

  • you only want feedback from the people who care about you and your work

9. Sell out

  • don't be afraid to charge for your work

  • first build the audience, then ask for their contribution

  • keep a mailing list, always collect email addresses from people who come across your work, even if you don't have anything to sell at the moment

  • never spam them and always ask for their permission

  • build your list and treat it with respect

  • make more work for yourself, try new things, build your audience

  • pay it forward

10. Stick around

  • don't quit prematurely

  • "Work is never finished, only abandoned." (Paul Valéry)

  • just keep going, be consistent and persistent

  • never loose momentum, use the end of your project to light up the next one

  • take sabbaticals, recharge and get inspired again

  • separate your work from the rest of your life

  • whenever you feel like you've maxed out learning about a thing you're doing, it's time to change course and find something new to learn so that you can move forward

  • make room for the new

  • become an amateur and start again at chapter 1.


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