A must-read for anyone involved in the creative process

4 things you can learn from Austin Kleon’s ‘Show Your Work’

Enjoy Being an Amateur

We’re all terrified of being revealed as amateurs. We take our work seriously, so we like to take ourselves seriously. But today, it is the amateur who often has the advantage over the professional. The amateur can take risks that a professional can’t. The amateur has nothing to lose. The amateur is willing to try anything, then share the results of what they learnt. Amateurs might lack formal training, but they’re all lifelong learners and they make a point of learning in the open so that others can then learn from their failures and successes.

Think process, not products

When a painter talks about her “work”, she could be talking about two different things:
The ‘Artwork’. This is the finished piece, like the painting that gets framed and hung on the gallery wall, Or, the ‘art WORK’. This is the day-to-day work of creating the art. This is all of the stuff that goes on behind the scenes in her studio – the ideas, the searching for inspiration, the initial sketches, the mixing of the colours, then the act of applying oil to canvas. There’s PAINTING the noun (the thing you end up with) and PAINTING the verb (the act of doing the work). You can apply this concept more broadly to your work and view things as either the PRODUCT or the PROCESS. Traditionally, artists only ever shared their products and kept the process a secret just to themselves. In the past, an artist was supposed to toil away in secrecy, hidden away from the outside work, keep her ideas to herself and keeping her work under lock and key, waiting until she has a magnificent product to show and at which point tries to connect with an audience. That might have made sense in the pre-digital age, when it was too hard or too cost to share thing from your journey. But today,. By taking advantage of the internet and social media, an artist can share what she wants whenever she wants with whomever she wants at almost no cost. She can share those inspirations in the early phases, she can share the tools she’s using as she progresses, she can blog about her influences or post pictures of her sketches or post videos of her work-in-progress. By opening yourself and your work to the ‘real’ world, you can not only begin to connect with your audience sooner, you can get the vital feedback you need to make changes or improvements along the way (rather than slaving away in hiding until it’s ‘done’ only to find out that no one wants it).

Learn to take a punch

When you put your work out into the world, you have to be ready for the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more people come across your work, the more criticism you’ll face.
Here’s how to take a punch:
Brian Michael Bendis: “The trick is not caring what EVERYBODY thinks of you and just caring about what the RIGHT people think of you”. You don’t need to show your work to everyone, you just need to show your work to the right people.

Stick around

When you finish a project, whether you’ve just won big or struck out, you still have to face the question: “What’s Next?”. Every author knows that your last book isn’t going to write the next one for you, every artist knows that just by doing one painting doesn’t mean that the next one will be a sinch. If you look at artists who’ve managed to achieve lifelong careers, you detect the same pattern: they all have been able to persevere, regardless of success or failure:

Austin Kleon calls this: chain smoking. Avoid stalling in your career by never losing momentum. Instead of taking breaks between projects, waiting for feedback, and worrying about what’s next – use the end of one project to light up the next one. Just do the work that’s in front of you, and when it’s finished, ask yourself what you missed/what you could’ve done better / what you couldn’t get to – then use that to jump right in to the next project