Show Your Work!

This book, along with Steal Like an Artist, really dispelled a lot of my misbeliefs about being a content creator online. Incredibly helpful. I think that it's a great read.

8 min read

Chapter 1: You don't Have to be a Genius

  • “Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.” —John Cleese
  • “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” — Steve Martin
    • You don't find an audience, they find you.
  • Today, if your work isn't online, it doesn't exist. Get it out there!
  • “Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.” —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Don't be afraid to share — geniuses were always copying and stealing others' ideas, while also contributing them. Good work isn't created in a vacuum. Being a valuable contributor is not about how smart you are or how talented you are, but the ideas you share, the quality of the connections you make, and the conversations you start.
  • Stop asking what others can do for you. Start asking what you can do for others.
  • Everyone can contribute. There are no entry-requirements.
  • "*The world is changing at such a rapid rate that it’s turning us all into amateurs. Even for professionals, the best way to flourish is to retain an amateur’s spirit and embrace uncertainty and the unknown*"
  • Fill the void — what are other people not sharing? Look where other people are not.
  • "The best way to get started on the path to sharing your work is to think about what you want to learn, and make a commitment to learning it in front of others"
  • “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.” —Steve Jobs
  • Memento Mori

Chapter 2: Think Process, Not Product

  • People do want to see the process. So show it.
  • You don't always have to show a finished product. Just show it as is.
  • How to show your work when you have nothing to show? Scoop up the scraps and residue of your process and shape them into some interesting bit of media that you can share.
  • You have to make stuff — no one gives a damn about your resume. Show what you can do.
  • "*Become a documentarian of what you do. Start a work journal: Write your thoughts down in a notebook, or speak them into an audio recorder. Keep a scrapbook. Take a lot of photographs of your work at different stages in your process. Shoot video of you working. This isn’t about making art, it’s about simply keeping track of what’s going on around you. Take advantage of all the cheap, easy tools at your disposal—these days, most of us carry a fully functional multimedia studio around in our smartphones."*
    • You don't even have to share everything. Recording your process has its own rewards. And then, when you're ready to share, you'll have lots of material to choose from.

Chapter 3: Share Something Small Everyday

  • “Put yourself, and your work, out there every day, and you’ll start meeting some amazing people.” —Bobby Solomon
  • It doesn't matter how you share. Just that you do it.
  • Have a space for yourself online — a place where you can share your work. That's a great investment. (paraphrase of Andy Baio quote)
  • "*Overnight success is a myth. Dig into almost every overnight success story and you’ll find about a decade’s worth of hard work and perseverance. Building a substantial body of work takes a long time—a lifetime, really—but thankfully, you don’t need that time all in one big chunk. So forget about decades, forget about years, and forget about months. Focus on days.*"
  • Once you're done working for the day, share something small from your documentation.
    • Maybe its what's influencing or inspiring you.
    • Maybe its your methods or works in progress.
    • Maybe its even your final product.
    • Maybe its what you've learned from making it.
    • If you have lots of things out in the world, tell how they're doing — how are people interacting with your work?
  • Don't worry about everything you post being perfect.
    • You don't always what's good and what's not. That's why it's important to get it in front of others and seeing how they react.
  • You can't say that you don't have time. You do. Make time.
  • "Ideally, you want the work you post online to be copied and spread to every corner of the Internet, so don’t post things online that you’re not ready for everyone in the world to see. As publicist Lauren Cerand says, “Post as though everyone who can read it has the power to fire you.”"
  • "Be open, share imperfect and unfinished work that you want feedback on, but don’t share absolutely everything. There’s a big, big difference between sharing and over-sharing."
  • If you don't know if you should share what you're about to share, wait 24 hours. Would you be comfortable with your mother or boss seeing it? Is it helpful? Entertaining?

Chapter 4: Open Up Your Cabinet of Curiosities

  • “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
  • Don't feel guilty about what you like. And don't make others feel guilty about what they like.
  • Do what you do best and link to the rest.” —Jeff Jarvis
    • "What if you want to share something and you don’t know where it came from or who made it? The answer: Don’t share things you can’t properly credit. Find the right credit, or don’t share."

Chapter 5: Tell Good Stories

  • "Words matter. Artists love to trot out the tired line, “My work speaks for itself,” but the truth is, our work doesn’t speak for itself. Human beings want to know where things came from, how they were made, and who made them. The stories you tell about the work you do have a huge effect on how people feel and what they understand about your work, and how people feel and what they understand about your work effects how they value it."
    • Tell good stories about the work that you do. People love stories.
  • "If you want to be more effective when sharing yourself and your work, you need to become a better storyteller. You need to know what a good story is and how to tell one."
    • Good structure is important.
  • Remember that everything is a pitch.
  • "Whether you’re telling a finished or unfinished story, always keep your audience in mind. Speak to them directly in plain language. Value their time. Be brief. Learn to speak. Learn to write. Use spell-check. You’re never “keeping it real” with your lack of proofreading and punctuation, you’re keeping it unintelligible."
  • Good storytelling doesn't come easy. It's a skill that takes a lifetime to master. Study the great stories. Your stories get better the more you tell them.

Chapter 6: Teach What You Know

  • "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"
    • Free teach what you know.
  • Think about what you can share from your process that would inform the people you’re trying to reach.
    • Have you learned a craft?
    • What are your techniques?
    • Are you skilled at using certain tools and materials?
    • What kind of knowledge comes along with your job?
  • "The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to others. Share your reading list. Point to helpful reference materials. Create some tutorials and post them online. Use pictures, words, and video. Take people step-by-step through part of your process. As blogger Kathy Sierra says, “Make people better at something they want to be better at.”"
  • Teaching others is the best teacher. Share your knowledge and you'll receive an education in return.

Chapter 7: Don't Turn Into Human Spam

  • "I call these people human spam. They’re everywhere, and they exist in every profession. They don’t want to pay their dues, they want their piece right here, right now. They don’t want to listen to your ideas; they want to tell you theirs. They don’t want to go to shows, but they thrust flyers at you on the sidewalk and scream at you to come to theirs. You should feel pity for these people and their delusions. At some point, they didn’t get the memo that the world owes none of us anything."
  • Be interested in others. If you want fans, you have to be a fan.
    • "If you’re only pointing to your own stuff online, you’re doing it wrong. You have to be a connector. The writer Blake Butler calls this being an open node. If you want to get, you have to give. If you want to be noticed, you have to notice. Shut up and listen once in a while. Be thoughtful. Be considerate. Don’t turn into human spam. Be an open node."
  • "*Stop worrying about how many people follow you online and start worrying about the quality of people who follow you. Don’t waste your time reading articles about how to get more followers. Don’t waste time following people online just because you think it’ll get you somewhere. Don’t talk to people you don’t want to talk to, and don’t talk about stuff you don’t want to talk about.*"
  • "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."
  • "Don’t be creepy. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t waste people’s time. Don’t ask too much. And don’t ever ever ask people to follow you. “Follow me back?” is the saddest question on the Internet."

Chapter 8: Learn to Take a Punch

  • "Bad criticism is not the end of the world"
  • "Strengthen your neck. The way to be able to take a punch is to practice getting hit a lot. 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."
  • "Roll with the punches. Keep moving. Every piece of criticism is an opportunity for new work. You can’t control what sort of criticism you receive, but you can control how you react to it. Sometimes when people hate something about your work, it’s fun to push that element even further. To make something they’d hate even more. Having your work hated by certain people is a badge of honor."
  • “The trick is not caring what EVERYBODY thinks of you and just caring about what the RIGHT people think of you.” —Brian Michael Bendis

Chapter 9: Sell Out

  • It's allowed to make money off your work. And it's fine to do so. Just make sure that whatever you 'sell', it's worth its price.
  • "Even if you don’t have anything to sell right now, you should always be collecting email addresses from people who come across your work and want to stay in touch."
  • “We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.” —Walt Disney
  • "When you have success, it’s important to use any dough, clout, or platform you’ve acquired to help along the work of the people who’ve helped you get to where you are. Extol your teachers, your mentors, your heroes, your influences, your peers, and your fans. Give them a chance to share their own work. Throw opportunities their way."

Chapter 10: Stick Around

  • "The people who get what they’re after are very often the ones who just stick around long enough. It’s very important not to quit prematurely."
  • "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 can’t be content with mastery; you have to push yourself to become a student again. “Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough,” writes author Alain de Botton."
  • "The thing is, you never really start over. You don’t lose all the work that’s come before. Even if you try to toss it aside, the lessons that you’ve learned from it will seep into what you do next."

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