"Show Your Work!" by Austin Kleon - notes

"Show Your Work!" by Austin Kleon - notes

As I read books, I take notes along the way. These notes are for getting back to the most interesting ideas I got while reading. I hope you enjoy them

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  1. “Never forget why you’re really doing. Are you helping people? Are they happy? Are you happy? Are you profitable? Isn’t that enough?”
  2. “Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  3. “That’s all any of us are: amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.” - Charlie Chaplin
  4. “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities” - Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki.
  5. “In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen — really seen.” - Brene Brown

You don’t have to be a Genius

A New Way of Operating

  • How do I get my stuff out there?
  • How do I get noticed?
  • How do I find an audience?
  • How did you do it?

Read Obituaries

  1. “Try it: Start reading about obituaries every morning. Take inspiration from the people who muddled through life before you - they all started out as amateurs, and they got where they were going by making do with what they were given, and having the guts to put themselves out there. Follow their example.” Think Not Process, Product (Chapter)
  2. “As in all kinds of work, there is a distinction between the painter’s process, and the products of her process.”
  3. “The work is all that’s happened in the day. It is a process, not a thing.”
  4. Ted Orland in their book, Art and Fear. “To all viewers but yourself, what matters is the product: the finished artwork. To you, and you alone, what matters is the process: the experience of shaping the artwork.”
  5. “By letting go of our egos and sharing our process, we allow for the possibility of people having an ongoing connection with us and our work, which helps us move more of our product.”

Become a Documentarian of what you do

  1. How can you show your work even when you have nothing to show?
    1. The first step is to scoop up the scraps and the residue of your process and shape them into some interesting bit of media that you can share.
    2. You have to turn the invisible into something other people can see. “You have to make stuff,” said journalist David Carr
    3. 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.
    4. Take a lot of photographs off 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.
    5. Whether you share it or not, documenting and recording your process as you go along has its own rewards: You’ll start to see the work you’re doing more clearly and feel like you’re making progress. And when you’re ready to share, you’ll have a surplus of materials to choose from. 

Share something small everyday


  1. “Put yourself, and your work, out there every day, and you’ll start meeting some amazing people.” - Bobby Solomon
  2. “One day at a time. It sounds so simple. It actually is simple but it isn’t easy: it requires incredible support and fastidious structuring.” - Russell Brand

Send Out A Daily Dispatch

  1. “So forget about decades, forget about years, and forget about months. Focus on days. The day is the only unit of time that I can really get my head around. Seasons change, weeks are completely human-made but the day has a rhythm.” 
  2. “A daily dispatch is even better than a resume or a portfolio because it shows what we’re working on right now.” 
  3. “Your daily dispatch can be anything you want - a blog post, an email, a tweet, a YouTube video, or some other little bit of media.”
  4. tagline: “What are you working on?” - stick to that question and you’ll be good. Don’t show your lunch or your latte, show your work.
  5. “The trouble is, we don’t always know what’s good and what sucks. That’s why it’s important to get things in front of others and see how they react.”
  6. How to find the time for this: “I look for it.”

The “So What?” TEST


  1. “Make no mistake: This is not your diary. You are not letting it all hang out. You are picking and choosing every single word.” - Dani Shapiro
  2. “Post as though everyone who can read it has the power to fire you.”
  3. 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.
  4. There’s nothing wrong with saving things for later. The SAVE AS A DRAFT button is prophylactic — it might not feel as good in the moment, but you’ll be glad you used it in the morning.

  5. “SO WHAT?”

    Turn your flow into stock

  6. “If you work on something a little bit every day, you end up with something that is massive.” - Kenneth Goldsmith
  7. “Stock and flow” is an economic concept that writer Robin Sloan has adapted into a metaphor for media: “Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people you exist. Stock is durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.” Sloan says the magic formula is to maintain your flow while working on your stock in the background.
  8. In my experience, your stock is best made by collecting, organizing, and expanding upon your flow. Social media sites function a lot like public notebooks — they’re places where we think out loud, let other people think back at us, then hopefully think some more. But the thing about keeping notebooks is that you have to revisit them in order to make the most out of them. You have to flip back through old ideas to see what you’ve been thinking. Once you make sharing part of your daily routine, you’ll notice themes and trends emerging in what you share. You’ll find patterns in your flow.
  9. When you detect these patterns, you can start gathering these bits and pieces and turn them into something bigger and more substantial. You can turn your flow into stock.

Action: Start off with the Cracking the coding interview and turn those into video format, using different styles — see what fits for me and continue doing It consistently — then grab all those pieces, blogs/YouTube videos, newsletters and write a book — this is the STOCK.

  1. For example, a lot of the ideas in this book started out as tweets, which then became blog posts, which then became book chapters. Small things, over time, can get big.

Build a good (Domain) name


  1. “Carving out space for yourself online, somewhere where you can express yourself and share your work, is still one of the best possible investments you can make with your time.” — Andy Baio
  2. “Don’t think of your website as a self-promotion machine — self-invention machine.”
  3. 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.
  4. “Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises. Don’t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful. Be concerned with doing good work …. And if you can build a good name, eventually that name will be its own currency.”

Open up your cabinet of curiosities

  1. “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
  2. Before we’re ready to take the leap of sharing our own work with the world, we can share our tastes in the work of others.
    1. Where do you get your inspiration?
    2. What sorts of things do you fill your head with?
    3. What do you read?
    4. Do you subscribe to anything?
    5. What sites do you visit on the internet?
    6. What music do you listen to?
    7. What movies do you see?
    8. Do you look at art?
    9. What do you collect?
    10. What’s inside your scrapbook?
    11. What do you pin to the cork-board above your desk?
    12. What do you stick on your refrigerator?
    13. Who’s done work that you admire?
    14. Who do you steal ideas from?
    15. Do you have any heroes?
    16. Who do you follow online?
    17. Who are the practitioners you look up to into your field?


  1. “The stupidest possible creative act is still a creative act” - Clay Shirky in his book Cognitive Surplus.
  2. “On the spectrum of creative work, the difference between the mediocre and the good is vast. Mediocrity is, however, still on the spectrum; you can move from mediocre to good in increments. The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something”
  3. “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. Find scenes, pay attention to what others are sharing, and then start taking note of what they’re not sharing.”
  4. “You can’t find your voice if you don’t use it.”
    1. “Find your voice, shout it from the rooftops, and keep doing it until the people that are looking for you find you.” - Dan Harmon
  5. “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.”
  6. Taunt: a remark made in order to anger, wound, or provoke someone: pupils will play truant rather than face the taunts of classmates about their ragged clothes.


  • dodges: avoid (someone) by a sudden quick movement:
    • We docked inside our doorway to dodge shrapnel that was raining down.
  • Schmooze: talk with someone in a lively and friendly way, typically in order to impress or manipulate them.
    • “It’s” a good time to put yourself forward, to network and to schmooze | my time is spent schmoozing with other media folk | [with object]: she schmoozed every casting agent in town.
  • Precedent: an earlier event or action that is regarded as an example or guide to be considered in subsequent similar circumstances: there are substantial precedents for using interactive media in training | breaking with all precedent.
  • Apprentice: a person who is learning a trade from a skilled employer, having agreed to work for a fixed period at low wages. - “an apprentice electrician”.
  • Mediocre - if only moderate quality; not very good: a mediocre actor.
  • Vast: a very great extent or quantity; immense: a vast plain of buffalo grass.
  • Contagious - spread from one person or organism to another by direct or indirect contact: a contagious infection.
  • Tangible: perceptible by touch: the atmosphere of neglect and abandonment was almost tangible.
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