Show Your Work!

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Austin Kleon is great at being himself. As a budding poetry artist working at a library, Austin struggled massively with writers block. He would stare at a blank page day after day and wonder why no inspiration would come. Through this he learnt to loosen his ideas of originality and perfection to allow himself to just create. Austin is unashamedly influenced by the things he loves and shares his own splash to the world. His 10 years of writing and publishing work, including 5 best-selling books, gives credibility to his message: When you read his work you are immersed in a sort of Austin-ness, which is fun, engaging and contagious.

Key Points:

  • 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.
  • Do what you do best and link to the rest.” —Jeff Jarvis
  • Strengthen your neck. The way to be able to take a punch is to practice getting hit a lot. Put out a lot of work. Let people take their best shot at it. Then make even more work and keep putting it out there. The more criticism you take, the more you realize it can’t hurt you. Roll with the punches. Keep moving. Every piece of criticism is an opportunity for new work. You can’t control what sort of criticism you receive, but you can control how you react to it. Sometimes when people hate something about your work, it’s fun to push that element even further. To make something they’d hate even more. Having your work hated by certain people is a badge of honor. Protect your vulnerable areas. If you have work that is too sensitive or too close to you to be exposed to criticism, keep it hidden. But remember what writer Colin Marshall says: “Compulsive avoidance of embarrassment is a form of suicide.” If you spend your life avoiding vulnerability, you and your work will never truly connect with other people. Keep your balance. You have to remember that your work is something you do, not who you are. This is especially hard for artists to accept, as so much of what they do is personal. Keep close to your family, friends, and the people who love you for you, not just the work.
  • When she was young and starting out, Patti Smith got this advice from William Burroughs: “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.”
  • When you share your taste and your influences, have the guts to own all of it. Don’t give in to the pressure to self-edit too much. Don’t be the lame guys at the record store arguing over who’s the more “authentic” punk rock band. Don’t try to be hip or cool. Being open and honest about what you like is the best way to connect with people who like those things, too.
  • If you want followers, be someone worth following. Barry Hannah said to one of his students, “Have you tried making yourself a more interesting person?” This seems like a really mean thing to say, unless you think of the word interesting the way writer Lawrence Weschler does: For him, to be “interest-ing” is to be curious and attentive, and to practice “the continual projection of interest.” To put it more simply: If you want to be interesting, you have to be interes
  • You can’t be content with mastery; you have to push yourself to become a student again. “Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough,” writes author Alain de Botton

The book can be simplified in the following analogy:

Listening to Stephen Fry read out the Harry Potter series is a favourite combination of mine. Stephen Fry uses his melodic voice to make the books into a great audio experience, just as adding your own voice to things you enjoy can be a great experience for others.

  • Stephen Fry reading J.K Rowling's books has made it really enjoyable, in a different way;
  • Stephen Fry reading J.K Rowling's books does not take away from the fact that he is a great author himself;
  • Stephen Fry reading J.K Rowling's books does not take away from the fact that the books themselves are brilliant;
  • It wouldn't work if he tried to mimic someone else's voice, including J.K Rowling's;