SUMMARY: Ditch the résumé and get your fingers making stuff. Overnight success never happens overnight. Practice explaining what you do with pride. Here’s why Show Your Work! should be your new artisan bible.
What’s the best thing to do the day after “National Read a Book Day”? Reviewing one.
Admittedly I’m a bit late to the Show Your Work! party since it was published in 2014, but the messages and lessons will be just as true 10 years from now. Trust me, they are timeless.
Austin Kleon’s soaring manifesto will change the way you create. No matter if you’re a closet watercolor painter; an up-and-coming Annie Leibovitz; or a weekend pottery maker, Work! will inspire you to break free from your own doubt chains and put your work thoughtfully out in the ether.
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I’m going to incorporate some of Austin’s strategies on CrankyYank and elsewhere on my pages and projects in the future—to show how his theories have changed me (some of the stuff I was already doing). For now, I want to excerpt some of the highlights.
Overnight success is a myth. Dig into almost every overnight success story and you’ll find about a decade’s worth of hard work and perseverance. (Chapter 3, Share Something Small Every Day)
This is why I try to get up at the buttcrack of dawn to start my day, answer email and get to writing and planning:
You might have to miss an episode of your favorite TV show, you might have to miss an hour of sleep, but you can find the time if you look for it. I like to work while the world is sleeping and share while the world is at work. (Chapter 3)
Citing influencers and celebrating heroes and collaborators has been my Job No. 1 for 10+ years now. Whether it’s bragging about artists and creatives through ARTvision Atlanta; connecting a fellow author and friend to a podcast host; or sharing wisdom from some of my favorite writers (many of whom appear in my “Trusted Newsers” section below), it’s all about celebrating others’ good work. Emphasis mine:
Where do you get your inspiration? What sorts of things do you fill your head with? What do you read? Do you subscribe to anything? What sites do you visit on the Internet?… Do you have any heroes? Who do you follow online? Who are the practitioners you look up to in your field? Your influences are all worth sharing because the clue people in to who you are and what you do—sometimes even more than your own work. (Chapter 4, Open Up Your Cabinet of Curiosities)
“What do you do?” is a question that’s always intimidated me, and I’ve never understood why. Practicing explaining an artist’s “job” is an art in and of itself—and should be honed just like the medium in which you work.
You should be able to explain your work to a kindergartner, a senior citizen and everybody in between. (Chapter 5, Tell Good Stories)
Those are just a few of the highlights in a truly exceptional book. In the coming days and weeks I’m going to put Austin’s creative thought into action right here on this blog. (You can already see it with my news sourcing and my Twitter quote: “Be so good they can’t ignore you” from Steve Martin, which I found in the pages of Work!)
Toward the end of Work! Kleon summons comedian (and in my view, philosopher) Joan Rivers to drive home the point of sticking to goals. “In our business you don’t quit. You’re holding on to the ladder. When they cut off your hands, hold on with your elbow. When they cut off your arms, hold on with your teeth. You don’t quit because you don’t know where the next job is coming from.” 🔵
Austin, Texas-based Austin Kleon describes himself as “writer who draws. I make art with words and books with pictures.” He’s the author of Show Your Work!, Steal Like an Artist and other forthcoming works in the pipeline. Follow Austin Kleon on Twitter, visit his website, sign up for his excellent newsletter and—most importantly—buy his books!
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