Review: Show Your Work!

22May14

Professional development books have a bad rep for being either dull as toast, or super-cutesy in the extreme. Austin Kleon neatly sidesteps both Scylla and Charybdis with Show Your Work!, a fun, pocket-sized guide to artistic/creative success, that expands on concepts presented in his previous book, Steal Like an Artist.

photo credit medium.com. Click through to read an essay by Kleon.

Image from medium.com – click through to read an essay from Kleon about his new book.

Self-promotion is Kleon’s main concern here, but don’t despair: marketing and networking have never been quite so much fun, most likely because Kleon doesn’t use the words “marketing” or “networking.” These concepts are reframed as “sharing,” a concept that’s not only easier to swallow, but also something people do quite naturally in our social media age. The difference is that sharing, leveraged properly, can lead to both creative success and the connections that foster it.

Kleon puts his theories into action by printing the ten “share like an artist” principles on the back cover of the book, making it possible for a person to learn something without ever cracking the cover. But, of course, this sharing makes you want to learn more, as a reader: the writer has shared something with you, and in return you’re more inclined to share your time and attention. The book is visually interesting as well, supporting the text of each chapter with arresting illustrations, fun drawings, and intriguing photos, making reading it as much of a multimedia experience as a 2d book could possibly be. It doesn’t hurt, either, that Kleon’s signature font is just so darned fun to look at.

You’ll be surprised, when you get to the end, that you’ve digested over 200 pages of sensible advice, because the getting there is so much fun. Kleon makes it easy, too, by breaking his chapters into bite-sized chunks of information. You can read one, go practice it, and then come back when you’re ready. Although they can be practiced sequentially, the ten suggestions don’t have to be, so you can also flip open the book at random, take what you need, think about it, and come back to it. The advice that seemed most pertinent to me right now was, “Stick Around,” something I need to learn as I juggle multiple blogs, professional projects, and creative challenges.

People who want more specific instructions on how to run their creative lives may find this book a little too free-form, but they’re not really the target audience here. If you’re looking to start new work, revive old work, or otherwise shake up your current creative practices, you should definitely read this book and playtest its suggestions.

 

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