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Show Your Work
Read in 24 min.
Listen in 30 min.
Learn the key ideas of the book by Austin Kleon

Show Your Work

Ideas to help share your work and make a name for yourself

Many artists struggle to achieve recognition and to find buyers for their work. With his book “Show Your Work”, Austin Kleon provides the reader with ten solutions to this problem, dispelling the myth of the artist as a solitary genius and encouraging an attitude of sharing with and generosity towards the public. Show your Work is aimed at everyone who hates the idea of self-promotion and who would prefer the idea of captivating and intriguing people with their work, directly touching their hearts, and sowing their creative seedlings day by day, one inspiration at a time. 

Show Your Work
Read in 24 min.
Listen in 30 min.

It is time to dispel the myth of the artist as a lone genius and recognise that creativity is always a form of collaboration

Art is not an antisocial gesture: the idea of the solitary genius, with an immense talent, who is suddenly struck by the lightning of divine inspiration, is an unhelpful myth.

A healthy and productive way of thinking about creativity can be explained by the musician, Brian Eno, who says “genius is individual, scenius is communal”. By this, he means that we should not think of individual genius, but of a group of creative people, coming from different working sectors, who give life to a sort of "ecosystem of talent". A scenius is like a genius, only it is embedded in a scene, rather than in genes.

If we really look at history, we can observe many great characters who have created immense works, but who also spent their time in settings and with groups that helped each other; they copied one another and  exchanged ideas. Scenius does not mean to diminish the greatness of certain talents, but to enhance the fact that creative works do not appear by themselves, because they are always the result of some form of collaboration, the fruit of the connection between several minds. Scenius is an organic process in which highly skilled people breed ideas with other highly skilled people.

To become part of a scenius, we don't have to be particularly smart or talented, that's not the point. The point is to share ideas, establish and nurture quality relationships, and do your part. The question to ask is "In what way can I contribute to this group?".

In this scenario, we can consider our amateur status as a strength; an amateur is someone who does something for pleasure and passion. These people have an advantage over the professionals: they are willing to take risks, they have nothing to lose, and they have no reputation to defend. They can allow themselves to experiment and follow their instincts, to make mistakes, and even to make a fool of themselves. Amateurs continue to learn throughout their lives and do it with enthusiasm and pride; they are ordinary people, passionate about a particular subject, and willing to put their heart and soul into what they do, and often have more things to teach us than the experts.

Steve Jobs said that thinking about death is a good way to remind us that we have nothing to lose when we expose ourselves in front of others, and when we take risks, because what awaits us in the end is the same for everyone. "You're already naked," he said. Knowing that death comes to us all and that one day it will be our turn helps a great deal in putting everything in perspective, and with this in mind, reading an obituary now and then can actually be helpful.

Reading the obituaries column is a way for us to take a closer look at death, to think about it, yet still keep it at a distance. Reading about people who are no longer with us and learning what they have done in their lives can encourage us to do something good in ours!


The key ideas of "Show Your Work"

It is time to dispel the myth of the artist as a lone genius and recognise that creativity is always a form of collaboration
There are works of art, but more importantly, there is ‘working artfully’. Focus on the process rather than the outcome
Share something every day and remember that there is a massive difference between selective sharing and just throwing your ideas all over the place
Showing what you like is a way to describe who you are and what you do
You need to know how to tell a good story because the work doesn’t always speak for itself
As soon as you learn something new, don’t hesitate to share it with others
Don’t be a spammer: if you want to talk, you first need to listen, if you want to be heard, you had better have something interesting to say
Learn to accept criticism and to discern the motives of its source
Sell your work: even artists have bills to pay!
Don’t give up! You never know what can happen next, keep playing, right until the end!
Take-home message
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