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Excerpts from ‘Show Your Work’

Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you.

Here are my highlights from Show Your Work! - a book about sharing creativity.

Introduction

In order to get discovered, build sharing into your routine.

By generously sharing your ideas and knowledge, you often gain an audience that you can leverage when they need it - for fellowship, feedback, or patronage.

This is an alternative for people who hate the very idea of self-promotion.

Imagine if your next boss didn’t have to read your resume because he already reads your blog. Imagine losing your job but having a social network of people familiar with your work and ready to help you find a new one. Imagine turning a side project into your profession because you had a following that could support you.

All you have to do is show your work.

You don’t have to be a genius

Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think. - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The ‘lone genius’ myth is a destructive thought.

Creativity is a much more social act, where great ideas are often birthed by a group of creative individuals who make up an ‘ecology of talent.’

Everyone has the ability to contribute something.

Be an amateur

The stupidest possible creative act is still a creative act.

Amateurs are willing to try anything and share the results. They take chances, experiment, and follow their whims. Amateurs are not afraid to make mistakes or look ridiculous in public.

Amateurs know that contributing something is better than contributing nothing.

Amateurs might lack format training, but they’re all lifelong learners, and they make a point of learning in the open so others can learn from their failures and successes.

The fellow pupil can help more than the master because he knows less. The difficulty we want him to explain is one he has recently met. The expert met it so long ago he has forgotten. - C.S. Lewis

Even for professionals, the best way to flourish is to retain an amateur’s spirit and embrace uncertainty and the unknown.

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.

You can’t find your voice if you don’t use it

Find your voice, shout it from the rooftops, and keep doing it until the people that are looking for you find you. - Dan Harmon

In this day and age, if your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist. If you want people to know about what you do and the things you care about, you have to share.

Think process, not product

By putting things out there consistently (instead of just the finished product), you can form a relationship with your audience.

It allows them to see the person behind the products.

Audiences not only want to stumble across great work, but they, too, long to be creative and part of the creative process. 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.

Start by scooping up the scraps and the residue of your process and shape them into some interesting bit of media that you can share.

Share something small every day

Put yourself, and your work, out there every day, and you’ll start meeting some amazing people. - Bobby Solomon

Dig into almost every overnight success story and you’ll find about a decade’s worth of hard work and perseverance.

Forget about decades, forget about years, forget about months. Focus on days.

Once a day, after you’ve done your day’s work, go back to your documentation and find one little piece of your process that you can share.

Don’t worry about everything you post being perfect. We don’t always know what’s good and what sucks. That’s why it’s important to to get things in front of others and see how they react.

The act of sharing is one of generosity - you’re putting something out there because you think it might be helpful or entertaining to someone on the other side of the screen.

Open up your cabinet of curiosities

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. - Ira Glass

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.

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.

You’re only as good as your record collection. - DJ Spooky

Tell good stories

Work doesn’t speak for itself.

If you want to be more effective when sharing yourself and your work, you need to become a better storyteller.

The most important part of a story is structure.

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

When you’re telling a 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.

Storytelling is a skill that takes a lifetime to master. So study the great stories and then go find some on your own. Your stories will get better the more you tell them.

Teach what you know

The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

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? What kind of knowledge comes along with your job?

The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to others. Share your reading lists. Point to helpful references materials. Create some tutorials and post them online. Take people step-by-step through part of your process.

Make people better at something they want to be better at. - Kathy Sierra

Teaching people doesn’t subtract value from what you do, it actually adds to it. When you teach someone how to do your work, you are, in effect, generating more interest in your work.

Best of all, when you share knowledge and your work with others, you receive an education in return.

Don’t turn into human spam

If you want fans, you have to be a fan first. If you want to be accepted by a community, you have to first be a good citizen of that community.

If you want to get, you have to give. If you want to be noticed, you have to notice.

What you want is to follow and be followed by human beings who care about issues you care about. This thing we make together. This thing is about hearts and minds, not eyeballs. - Jeffrey Zeldman

Being good at things is the only thing that earns you clout or connections.

Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love and you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff. It’s that simple.

Stick around

The people who get what they’re after are very often the ones who just stick around long enough.

A successful or failed project is no guarantee of another success or failure. Whether you’ve just won big or lost big, you still have to face the question “What’s next?”

You avoid stalling out in your career by never losing momentum. Instead of taking a break in between projects, waiting for feedback, and worrying about what’s next, use the end of one project to light up the next one.

Just do the work that’s in front of you, and when it’s finished, ask yourself what you missed, what you could’ve done better, or what you couldn’t get to, and jump right into the next project.

Begin again

Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough. - Alain de Botton

Look for something new to learn, and when you find it, dedicate yourself to learning it out in the open. Document your progress and share as you go so that others can learn along with you.

Show your work, and when the right people show up, pay close attention to them, because they’ll have a lot to show you.

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Author

Hi, I'm Yos. Yos lives and works in Singapore building nifty software products.