Austin Kleon has uniquely profound insights on life: how to view it, how to maneuver through it, and how to own it.
“Show Your Work” is exemplary in all these points. Specifically, Kleon discusses how to get noticed in this ever-changing world of technology and what it really means to be a “creative.” If you know me, you know I’m a visual person and this book is visually interesting. Typographic illustrations are strewn about, as are fantastic quotes from history’s luminaries.
“For artists, the great problem to solve is how to get oneself noticed.” ~ Honore’ De Balzac
I love how Kleon starts the book by telling us to “be an amateur” because amateurs pursue their work “in the spirit of love.” They aren’t afraid to make mistakes. I believe for most of us this is true—that the two times we are at our most authentic selves are when we are children and when we are elderly. As children we haven’t yet been indoctrinated into the world of judgement, insults or bullying; and as elders we are able to shed the concerns of what other people think. We are free to live life in the moment with pure abandonment to political correctness or rules.
“The stupidest possible creative act is still a creative act.” ~ Clay Shirky
Halfway through the book he gets into the marketing process that is social media. He emphatically says to stop worrying about how many followers you have and start focusing on the quality of the people who are following you. “If you want followers, be someone worth following.” And what follows is, “if you want to be interesting, you have to be interested.”
Once again the curious mind makes all things richer. But how to make it interesting? Be curious, mull over concepts, formulate an authentic opinion, regardless of whether it fits into the status quo—in fact, not fitting the status quo is what can make something interesting. And by all means, JUMP!
Take that leap of faith and put your work out there, understanding that the more interesting you become, the more followers you will have; the more you’ll get shot down by some and built up by others. Don’t be afraid of criticism. With my choreography I’ve always felt when someone gives me a bad review, I think, “Well, at least I captured their attention long enough for them to formulate an opinion.” That’s better than being ignored. After all, amateurs understand that creating something is better than creating nothing.
I’ve often told the young men and women I coach, “Your sport is what you do, it’s not who you are.” Kleon makes a similar statement in addressing artists, “You have to remember that your work is something you do, not who you are.” This philosophy helps me maintain a healthy perspective of my work, in knowing that what I put out into the world is merely an expression of who I am. This reminder allows me to take artistic chances because if what I share is thought to be crap, I understand it’s actually fertilizer to help my next work blossom. 😉
Photo by Gaelle Marcel