Show Your Work By Austin Kleon
“The fellow-pupil can help more than the master because he knows less. The difficulty we want him to explain is one he has recently met. The expert met it so long ago he has forgotten.”
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. Talk about the things you love. Your voice will follow.
But in this day and age, if your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist. We all have the opportunity to use our voices, to have our say, but so many of us are wasting it. If you want people to know about what you do and the things you care about, you have to share.
Obituaries aren’t really about death; they’re about life. “The sum of every obituary is how heroic people are, and how noble,” writes artist Maira Kalman.
As publicist Lauren Cerand says, “Post as though everyone who can read it has the power to fire you.”
Don’t think of your website as a self-promotion machine, think of it as a self-invention machine. Online, you can become the person you really want to be. Fill your website with your work and your ideas and the stuff you care about. Over the years, you will be tempted to abandon it for the newest, shiniest social network. Don’t give in. Don’t let it fall into neglect. Think about it in the long term. Stick with it, maintain it, and let it change with you over time.
“The problem with hoarding is you end up living off your reserves. Eventually, you’ll become stale. If you give away everything you have, you are left with nothing. This forces you to look, to be aware, to replenish. . . . Somehow the more you give away, the more comes back to you.” —Paul Arden
Your influences are all worth sharing because they clue people into who you are and what you do—sometimes even more than your own work.
George Orwell wrote: “Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful.”
“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
Teaching doesn’t mean instant competition. Just because you know the master’s technique doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to emulate it right away.
They started out as beginners, and so they feel an obligation to pass on what they’ve learned.
Teaching people doesn’t subtract value from what you do, it actually adds to it. When you teach someone how to do your work, you are, in effect, generating more interest in your work. People feel closer to your work because you’re letting them in on what you know. Best of all, when you share your knowledge and your work with others, you receive an education in return.
“When people realize they’re being listened to, they tell you things.” —Richard Ford
If you want followers, be someone worth following. Donald Barthelme supposedly said to one of his students, “Have you tried making yourself a more interesting person?” This seems like a really mean thing to say, unless you think of the word interesting the way writer Lawrence Weschler does: For him, to be “interest-ing” is to be curious and attentive, and to practice “the continual projection of interest.” To put it more simply: If you want to be interesting, you have to be interested.
Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love, and you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff. It’s that simple.
“Follow me back?” Is the saddest question on the Internet.
“Whatever excites you, go do it. Whatever drains you, stop doing it.” —Derek Sivers
If, after hanging out with someone you feel worn out and depleted, that person is a vampire. If, after hanging out with someone you still feel full of energy, that person is not a vampire.
“Part of the act of creating is in discovering your own kind. They are everywhere. But don’t look for them in the wrong places.” —Henry Miller
We can just sip beer or some other social lubricant and talk about big ideas.
Having your work hated by certain people is a badge of honour.
Protect your vulnerable areas. If you have work that is too sensitive or too close to you to be exposed to criticism, keep it hidden. But remember what writer Colin Marshall says: “Compulsive avoidance of embarrassment is a form of suicide.” If you spend your life avoiding vulnerability, you and your work will never truly connect with other people.
You have to remember that your work is something you do, not who you are.
In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power.
I’m more interested in what they did last weekend.
The magic formula is to maintain your flow while working on your stock in the background.
Your website doesn’t have to look pretty; it just has to exist.