Review: Austin Kleon's SHOW YOUR WORK

One thing I’ve always strived to improve has been my transparency. It’s also one of the things I’ve always struggled most with. It’s just not instinctual to me. I literally have to pour my time and energy into showing pieces of myself and my work to the world. And it's not even just my work—I don't even update my personal Facebook on a regular basis.

When I realized what Austin Kleon’s newest book was about, I knew I had to have it. The theme is Show Your Work. How apropos. Once I had it in my hands, there was so much for me to learn. Here are a few of my favorite lessons from each chapter:

 

1. You don’t have to be a genius.

Anyone can share their art. There are no limits here.

“You can’t find your voice if you don’t use it.”
“Raw enthusiasm is contagious.”

 

2. Think process, not product.

It's not about the final product; it's about the journey.

“We’re not all artists or astronauts. A lot of us go about our work and feel like we have nothing to show for it at the end of the day. But whatever the nature of your work, there is an art to what you do, and there are people who would be interested in that art, if only you presented it to them in the right way.”

 

3. Share something small every day.

You don't have to post something big. Share small things on a regular basis and you'll keep up your momentum.

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

You should be continually asking yourself this question: “What are you working on?”

Whatever you do, do not overshare.

 

4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities.

If someone shares something and you like it, share it, too.

“Your influences are all worth sharing because they clue people in to who you are and what you do—sometimes more than your own work.”
“I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you fucking like something, like it.” – Dave Grohl

 

5. Tell good stories.

If someone asks you about yourself, tell the truth and tell it with dignity and self-respect. You have to own who and what you are.

Ultimately, humans just want to connect. 

 

6. Teach what you know.

Pass it on. By teaching, you may learn something yourself.

“The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to others.”


7. Don’t turn into human spam.

Just because you have the power to share does not mean you should overshare.

“Make the stuff you love and talk about the stuff you love and you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff.”

 

8. Learn to take a punch.

Learning to take constructive criticism is one of the most important skills you can learn. You need to be able to put yourself out there and take a hit once in a while.

"Compulsive avoidance of embarrassment is a form of suicide.” – Colin Marshall
“Your work is something you do, not who you are.”

 

9. Sell out.

Sellout is a dirty word. You have to make your money somewhere.

"You just have to be as generous as you can, but selfish enough to get your work done.”

 

10. Stick around.

Don't give up. You might have to keep working at it for a long while before you get where you want to be. The trick is to never stop trying.

“Don’t quit your show. Life is very hard without a show, kids.” – Dave Chappelle

Never stop. Done with one project? Move onto the next immediately. Never lose momentum.


Every time I crack open a book by Austin Kleon, I take a piece of advice with me. It doesn’t matter if I’ve never read it before or if I’ve cracked that spine open a thousand times before. There is always something new to learn. I highly suggest you invest in your future by getting a copy of Show Your Work now. While you're at it, grab a copy of Steal Like An Artist if you haven't already. It's worth it.