Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon


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You will never experience success with your projects unless people know about you. In today’s noisy world, it keeps getting harder and harder to stand out. Let others into your work process, and then let them steal from you.


15 lessons

Show your work!

– by Austin Kleon –


1) It’s not enough to be good

You have to put your work out there so that people can discover it. Share something small but meaningful every day. You need to build things and spread them in order to attract those who share your interests. Send out a daily dispatch of what you’re working on right now.

2) Creativity comes from collaboration

One of the most destructive myths is that breakthroughs come from individuals in isolation who have superhuman skills. The reality is that great ideas often come from groups of creative people who copy, steal, and contribute ideas.

3) Read obituaries

Our dreams and visions are less scary when we’re reminded of our mortality. Thinking about our inevitable death puts our life choices in perspective. Reading about how other people lived their lives can also give us inspiration for how to live ours.

4) Develop an identity online

Start a personal blog, but do it for self-invention rather than self-promotion. Post things that you care about and what you’re working on. Be patient and slowly build it up.

5) Don’t be a hoarder

Where do you get your inspiration? Think about the websites you visit, the music you listen to, the movies you watch, and the things you collect. Share everything that inspires you because this gives people an idea of who you are and what you do, sometimes even more than your own work.

6) Never have any guilty pleasures

When you find things you genuinely enjoy, don’t let anyone else make you feel bad about it. We all love things that other people think are garbage. You must have the courage to keep loving your garbage, because what makes us unique is the diversity and breadth of our influences.

7) Learn how to tell good stories

Our work doesn’t speak for itself. People want to know where things came from, how they were made, and who made them. The stories you tell have emotional significance and bring value to your work. Everyone wants to feel connected, and stories make things more personal.

8) Teach what you know

Think about what you can share from your experiences that would inform the people you’re trying to reach. What have you learned from developing a skill or craft that you can pass on to others? People will feel closer to your work because you’re letting them in on what you know. Teaching others will also help you learn new things, because individuals will give you their ideas and opinions about your process.

9) Don’t be a spammer

Many people just want exposure and attention, but they don’t put in the hours of practice and hard work to earn it. You also need to be humble and listen to ideas instead of always trying to tell yours. The world isn’t all about you and your work. You should be interested in things other than what you’re thinking or doing. If you want fans, you have to be a fan first.

10) You want hearts, not eyeballs

Stop worrying about how many people follow you online and start worrying about the quality of people who follow you. Spend your time getting good at what you do, rather than trying different tactics to find fans. To earn followers you need to be more interesting, and you become interesting by being interested. Make things you love, talk about things love, and you’ll attract people who love those kinds of things.

11) Spend time with those who share your passion

Don’t hang out with people who drain your energy and waste your time. Associate with individuals who have a similar mission. Nurture your relationships with them. Sing their praises to others. Invite them to collaborate. Try to meet them in real life instead of only communicating online.

12) Learn to take a punch

When you put your work out into the world, you have to be ready for all kinds of feedback. The more people who see your work, the more criticism you’ll face. Take a deep breath and roll with the punches. Bad criticism is not the end of the world. Keep moving forward.

13) Don’t feed the trolls

A troll is someone who isn’t interested in improving your work, only provoking you with hateful, aggressive, or upsetting talk. You won’t gain anything from engaging with these people. Don’t feed them, and they’ll usually go away.

14) Never lose momentum

Instead of taking a break in between projects, waiting for feedback, and worrying about what’s next, use the end of one project to light up the next one. Just do the work that’s in front of you, and when it’s finished, ask yourself what you missed, what you could have done better, or what you couldn’t get to, and jump right into the next project.

15) Don’t be afraid to begin again

When you feel like you’ve learned whatever there is to learn from what you’re doing, it’s time to change course and find something new to learn so that you can move forward. You need the courage to get rid of old work and rethink things completely.