Have you ever read a book that you just couldn’t shut up about? Even though you don’t want to be that person, you cannot help but gush, “Oh, you just have to read this book!” Your friends and family start to side-eye you whenever you work it into a conversation, but really, you’re just in love with the whole thing: its ideas, its illustrations, the funny little quirks in the typography.
I read a fair amount of non-fiction. Since very few people I know share the same passion, I can usually contain my annoying plugs about it. Austin Kleon‘s Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered did not allow me to sit idly by while my friends and family remained in ignorance of its greatness. I move in creative circles, so it made sense—in my mind, at least—to recommend it.
I’m not sure all of them were as appreciative as I hoped; I can get too fanatical with some things. Even putting my fanaticism aside, I still can’t think of a reason for anyone to avoid reading Kleon’s book. In my defense, the author asks his readers to “[g]ive away a copy of this book to someone who needs to read it” (201). Since I checked it out from my local library, I figure the best I can do is promote it to everyone.
Physically, Show Your Work! is simply charming. It’s small enough to fit just about anywhere—your purse, glove compartment, lunch box, etc.—with a bright yellow cover and big, bold Sharpie marker text. The content combines Kleon’s unique artwork, inspirational quotes, and a clipped, conversational tone to produce a manual that is half self-help, half neighborly advice.
The message contained in Show Your Work! is simple: creative people in the Digital Age cannot make a living simply by letting their art speak for itself. Sharing what you do, and how you do it, has become an integral part of the success formula for burgeoning creators. The terms “art” and “artist” here are loosely defined; they may be traditional—painters, photographers, writers—or non-traditional—entrepreneurs, inventors, web developers—but the process by which they connect with their audiences is the same. By embracing the Internet as a business tool, but using it as a social platform, artists can reach levels of publicity not achieved by those who do either separately. Most of Kleon’s rules for success are incredibly simple. That isn’t to say that most people are already doing them, but that you’ll kick yourself for not having thought of them beforehand.
Show Your Work! is more than a concise bulleted list; it’s a collection of reasoned, testable theories on career achievement in the Digital Age. People at all stages of life—whether they aren’t yet in college or are well into retirement—will benefit from taking the time to read what he has to say. It doesn’t take long. Pick up a copy however you can.*
*But don’t steal it. Let the man make his living, okay?
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