Show Your Work by Austin Kleon


A short read, but interesting nonetheless. This book doesn't have a ton of practical insights, but gives some motivation to show what you're doing in public. An interesting argument and helpful for someone like me who is so young and feel like I haven't "accomplished" anything yet.

Key Insights

Nothing is original.

The writer Jonathan Lethem has said that when people call something "original," nine out of ten times they just don't know the references or the original sources involved.

Collecting various good ideas from different forms of culture is an essential skill to writing and having influence.

Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by.

Take on the identity of the 'someone' before you actually are the 'someone'

1. Pretend to be something you're not until you are---fake it until you're successful, until everybody sees you the way you want them to; or 2. Pretend to be making something until you actually make something.

It's not just about taking their style. Understand how they are thinking, understand why they wrote one thing over another.

Wilson Mizner said if you copy from one author, it's plagiarism, but if you copy from many, it's research.

Don't just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style. You don't want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.

If you just mimic the surface of somebody's work without understanding where they are coming from, your work will never be anything more than a knockoff.

Emulation is when imitation goes one step further, breaking through into your own thing.

So: Copy your heroes. Examine where you fall short. What's in there that makes you different? That's what you should amplify and transform into your own work.

If you have an idea for how something "should" be in life, make that thing. Don't sit around complaining or wishing something existed.

The manifesto is this: Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use---do the work you want to see done.

"Complain about the way other people make software by making software."

Being seen and being a creative is about sharing your work as you're going. Don't worry about being an 'overnight success' - enough people will see you when you're there. Start now and show your work.

You don't have to do it. Focus on the wildly important things.

In this age of information abundance and overload, those who get ahead will be the folks who figure out what to leave out, so they can concentrate on what's really important to them.


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