Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

Chris Woodall | 2016-10-30

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon was recommended to me by Derek Sivers and he also has notes posted which are rather entertaining and boil down some of the content. I found Austin’s book to be very insightful, and I found it reinforced my resolve to share what I am working on, be that my reading, music, or hobby engineering projects. There are a lot of awesome pieces of wisdom hidden in the book about the source of creativity and the benefits of sharing, but a core principle is found early on in a quote:

Creativity is not a talent it is a way of operating
John Cleese

Austin goes on to discuss the importance of doing “any” kind of work over doing nothing and also the importance of keeping an amateur mindset:

That’s all any of us are amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.
Charlie Chaplin

The important thing is to keep learning and share the process of your work and what you have learned. With the ease of sharing process now on the Internet, your process can be just as much a part of your work as your finished projects. This brings up the concept of flow (your feed of small unpolished pieces such as Tweets, Instagram photos, short videos, and blog posts) and stock (your polished end products), and how they drive each other forward. This means that you should always be showing pieces of your work, you can reuse them later. As Austin says:

Don’t show your lunch or your latte, show your work.
Austin Kleon

Showing your influences, story telling, grit and perseverance are also explored. However, the portion about not being a “jerk” who complains about “who the most ‘authentic’ punk band is” struck me deeply. I used to be concerned about such thing; however, as I grow as a human I am realizing the silliness of it all. We are here to express ourselves in whatever way we can, authenticity means nothing! It is a limiting thought that prevents us from breaking into new territory.

I highly recommend this book and I implore you start showing your work too!