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Show Your Work by Austin Kleon – Book Notes, Summary, Review

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon – Book Notes, Summary, Review - Cover Image

Published: November 25, 2020

Reading Time: 7 min

Book-Notes

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Reading Show Your Work unlocked the motivation I needed to be more confident in sharing my thoughts with the world. This is a helpful book for content creators, knowledge workers, and creatives alike.

Another great book I read by Austin Kleon was Steal Like An Artist. If you feel motivated and inspired by reading Show Your Work, then Steal Like An Artist is certainly worth adding to your books to read list.

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Who Should Read This Book?

The obvious people for me to recommend this book to are content creators like bloggers and YouTubers.

Whether you are new to content creation, or if you’re more experienced, I think everyone will find some valuable knowledge in this book.

In a broader sense, I think anyone creative in any way would also benefit from this book. Similarly, if you are a knowledge worker, always seeking out new information.

If you are someone looking to build a loyal audience for your work, then there are some valuable insights in this book for sure.


How This Book Changed Me

This book didn’t necessarily resonate with me as much as the last book I read (How To Take Smart Notes), but I did find some valuable information from it.

The fact that it was nice and short was very helpful for me to get through it quickly.

In terms of how the book has changed me, I hope to adopt a more documentarian attitude to the work that I do.

I would like to find more ways of taking note of my work on a daily basis. This should hopefully be a fun experiment.

Thinking about how this will look, I’m not sure yet. Some of the tools I am considering include a bullet journal, Notion, or the most recent tool in my toolkit Obsidian.

What I really found valuable was what the author shares about the quality of an audience over the quantity.

It would be really great to have a dedicated viewership that enjoyed the work that I do and want to learn from me. I hope to be able to build this up over time.

I also thought it was interesting to read about the value of the content you share and to be mindful that what you are sharing is helpful or entertaining while also being something you’d be comfortable sharing with the world.


My Top 3 Quotes That Resonated With Me

“Good work isn’t created in a vacuum, and that creativity is always, in some sense, a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds.”

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon – Page 10

“The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something”

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon – Page 13

“Put out a lot of work. Let people take their best shot at it. Then make even more work and keep putting it out there. The more criticism you take, the more you realize it can’t hurt you.”

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon – Page 73


Book Notes

1 You Don’t Have To Be A Genius

It’s not about how smart you are but it’s about what you have to contribute.

Amateurs are not afraid to make mistakes or look silly.

Watching others at work can inspire us to work ourselves. I have certainly found this to be the case from watching Ali Abdaal‘s videos in recent weeks.

If you’re looking to start sharing, the best way to start is to think about what you’d like to learn then make the commitment to learn it in front of others.

Share what you’re truly passionate about and people with similar interests will find you.

2 Think Process, Not Product

Whatever work you do, there are those that will find it interesting if you present it in the right way.

What to do when you’ve no idea what to share:

  • Scoop up the scraps of your process and share them into some type of media you can share. Turn the invisible into something other people can see.

This point seems a bit abstract and I’ve no concrete examples to draw upon just yet but I hope that by sharing more frequently I’ll determine this for myself.

Become a documentarian of what you do. Start a work journal: Write your thoughts down in a notebook. Take a lot of photographs of your work at different stages…

It’s easy to keep track of work with the tools we have like smart phones, bullet journals etc.

By recording your work, you’ll start to notice the work you are doing which might unlock some new ideas.

3 Share Something Small Everyday

After your day’s work, go back through the day and find some piece of your process to share with others.

It can be any format as long as you’re comfortable with the world seeing it.

Ask yourself: is this helpful, entertaining? Something I’d be comfortable with my boss or mother seeing?

After doing this for some time, you’ll start to see themes and patterns emerge that could be developed into bigger ideas i.e. turn your flow into stock.

4 Open Up Your Cabinet Of Curiosities

It’s important when sharing your work that the proper people are given credit.

Give a shout out to the people that helped you stumble onto good work.

Always attribute with a link!

Don’t share things you can’t properly credit.

5 Tell Good Stories

“Human beings want to know where things came from, how they were made, and who made them.”

Being able to tell compelling stories is a valuable skill to have.

“A character wants something, goes after it despite opposition (perhaps including his own doubts), and so arrives at a win, lose, or draw.”

Always keep your audience in mind. Do spelling & grammar checks or it will affect your credibility.

You should be able to explain your work to anyone.

Remove all the adjectives from your bio!! you’re not “aspiring” or “amazing”. Just state the facts.

Note to self: do this right now!

7 Don’t Turn Into Human Spam

Conduct a Vampire Test to see who is sucking the life out of you!

It’s a simple way to know who you should let in and out of your life. If, after hanging out with someone you feel worn out and depleted, that person is a vampire.

Banish the vampires from your life!

8 Learn To Take A Punch

As you put work out into the world, there will be good things and bad things. You’ll no doubt face criticism.

Relax & Breathe 😌

“Fear is often just the imagination taking a wrong turn.”

“No one has ever died from a bad review”

Put out a lot of work. Let people say what they may. Continue to put out great content and realize that people can’t hurt you.

“work is something you do, not who you are.”

It’s good to get feedback from those you care about. Be wary of feedback from people outside of this circle.

Consider turning off comments completely!

9 Sell Out

Consider adding a virtual tip jar: “Buy me a coffee”

Don’t be afraid to charge for your work but put a price on it that you think is fair.

Collecting email addresses is a great way to build an audience. When you have something amazing to sell, you’ll be able to send your list an email to let them know.

Build your list and treat it with respect.

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