The Art of Showing Your Creativity - Advice by Austin Kleon

If you are a creative, take a few moments to consider the following points:

  • You believe your art should speak for itself
  • 'Marketing' and 'promotion' discomfort you
  • You want your work to be discovered by more people
  • You want your art to get the recognition you think it deserves
  • You don't think you have a thick skin to deal with the trolls which come with sharing your work online
  • You want to add value to people's lives through your work
  • While sharing your art, you fear stepping on the wrong side of the fine line between adding value and spamming

As a writer, I associate myself to a lot of the above points. And so do a lot of other creatives. Painters, musicians, photographers, designers, filmmakers travellers, entrepreneurs and many other creatives are going through the same struggle of staying relevant, having their work seen by more people and at the same time maintaining the honesty and integrity in sharing your work.

Addressing these fears and issues, is a great book Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. This is a sort of manifesto of the current times for creatives to share their work the right way. Here are some of my notes from the book with some commentary. Hope you get around to reading the book and find it as useful and relevant as I did.

Note: Excerpts from the book are in italics



Once we start creating, our self-doubt tells us that your work is not good enough or maybe just not relevant to the people. But, more often than not, that's not the case. We grossly underestimate the usefulness of our own work.

To someone, it may be better than you dare to think
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When you share ideas, sometimes conversations start around it. That is your contribution in this world. Give what you have, don't be a hoarder.

Scenius - Not all of us are geniuses. But, we grow with the help of the scene around us. 

Find a scenius, pay attention to what others are sharing, and then start taking note of what they’re not sharing. Be on the lookout for voids that you can fill with your own efforts, no matter how bad they are at first.
She can share her sketches and works-in-progress, post pictures of her studio, or blog about her influences, inspiration, and tools - the thing she really cares about. By, doing this, she can really connect with the people who care about the same things as hers.

The biggest takeaway for me was the simple fact that what you find trivial might actually be very useful for someone else. 

"You can't find your voice until you use it"

Sometimes, we wait for a while to find our own voice. But, how would we find it until we've used it in different scenarios? What niche of photography would you like until you start clicking different settings? Not everyone knows for sure as to which format of design they prefer until they try their hands at them. 


Work doesn't speak for itsef. Even the renaissance had to be found.



''What are you working on?' Stick to that question and you'll be good. Don't show your lunch or latte, show your work.

Before sharing anything, put it through the 'So What' Test. Would people care about what you are showing? 

Turn your flow into stock. Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content your produce that is as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time
— Robin Sloan
Sloan says the magic formula is to maintain your flow while working on your stock in the background.
Your influences are all worth sharing because they clue people in to who you are and what you do - sometimes even more than your own work.

Share your process - this is an obvious yet fantastic piece of advice. A lot of people want to know how you do what you do and it can be very helpful for them. If you are signed up to my mailing list, you would see a direct result of this in my emails. I have started sharing things that inspire me, books I read, music I find therapeutic. By doing this, I hope I can connect with people who might enjoy what I write in my posts. Remember, you don't have to ensure that everyone in the world appreciates your art. You need to find only a handful to form a tribe who supports you when you need help and celebrates your victories. 



Build Sharing into your routine. 
Don't give in to the pressure to self-edit too much. Don't try to be hip or cool. Being open and honest about what you like is the best way to connect with people who like those things, too. 

People like to hear good stories. Learn how to speak about your work in a manner which evokes emotion. Read books by good authors and notice how they weave stories. 

The cat sat on a mat is not a story. The cat sat on the dog’s mat is a story.
— John le Carre

On Structure:

A good story can be created in the following structure: Once upon a time, there was _______. Every day, ______--. One day, ______. Because of that, _____. Because of that, ______. Until finally, ____________
There's a way to tell open -ended stories, where we acknowledge that we're snack-dab in the middle of a story, and we don't know how it all ends.
The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to others. Share your reading lists. Point to helpful reference materials. Teach what you know. Share your trade secrets.

This is what I aim to achieve with this post.

Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love and you'll attract people who love that kind of stuff. You want hearts not eyeballs. 
"Compulsive avoidance of embarrassment is a form of suicide." If you spend your lfe avoiding vulnerabiliti, you and your work will never truly connect with other people. Learn to take a punch.
Don't quit your show.
You can't plan on anything; you can only go about your work, as Isak Dinesen wrote, "every day, without hope or despair." You can't count on success; you can only leave open the possibility for it, and be ready to jump on and take the ride when it comes for you.

How much of this would you be willing to use? I'd love to hear your opinions, suggestions and questions. Drop in an email or write in the comments below. 

And as Kleon says, Credit is always due, so a hat tip to BrainPickings which has been a major source of inspiration for this post's format.