Summary:

The author says it best, “[This is] a book for people who hate the very idea of self-promotion. An alternative, if you will, to self-promotion. I’m going to try to teach you how to think about your work as a never-ending process, how to share your process in a way that attracts people who might be interested in what you do, and how to deal with the ups and downs of putting yourself and your work out in the world.”

Click here to buy on Amazon.

 


Table of Contents:

1: You Don’t Have to Be a Genius.

2: Think Process, Not Product.

3: Share Something Small Every Day.

4: Open Up Your Cabinet of Curiosities.

5: Tell Good Stories.

6: Teach What You Know.

7: Don’t Turn Into Human Spam.

8: Learn to Take a Punch.

9: Sell Out.

10: Stick Around.


My Highlights

1: You Don’t Have to Be a Genius.

Interesting idea, he talks about the “ecology of talent.” Where people support, look at, copy and steal ideas. 

Sometimes, amateurs have more to teach us than experts. “It often happens that two schoolboys can solve difficulties in their work for one another better than the master can,” wrote C.S. Lewis. “The fellow-pupil can help more than the master because he knows less. The difficulty we want him to explain is one he has recently met. The expert met it so long ago he had forgotten.

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.

If all this sounds scary or like a lot of work, consider this: One day you’ll be dead. Most of us prefer to ignore this most basic fact of life, but thinking about our inevitable end has a way of putting everything into perspective.

Reading about people who are dead now and did things with their lives makes me want to get up and do something decent with mine. Thinking about death every morning makes me want to live.

2: Think Process, Not Product.
Become a documentarian of what you do. Start a work journal: Write your thoughts down in a notebook, or speak them into an audio recorder. Keep a scrapbook. Take a lot of photographs of your work at different stages in your process. Shoot video of you working. This isn’t about making art, it’s about simply keeping track of what’s going on around you.

3: Share Something Small Every Day.

Facebook asks you to indulge yourself by asking “How are you feeling?” Or “What’s on your mind?” Instead focus on answering the question: “What are you working on?”…Don’t show your lunch or your latte, show your work.

On Blogging

“Carving out a space for yourself online, somewhere where you can express yourself and share your work, is still one of the best possible investments you can make with your time.” — Andy Baio

More than 10 years ago, I staked my own little Internet claim and bought the domain name austinkleon.com. I was a complete amateur with no skills when I began building my website: It started off bare bones and ugly. Eventually, I figure out how to install a blog and that changed everything…One little blog post is nothing on its own, but publish a thousand blog posts over a decade, and it turns into your life’s work. My blog has been my sketchbook, my studio, my gallery, my storefront, and my salon. Absolutely everything good that has happened in my career can be traced back to my blog. My books, my art shows, my speaking gigs, some of my best friendships — they all exist because I have my own little piece of turf on the Internet. So, if you get one thing out of this book make it this: Go register a domain name. Buy www.[insert your name].com.

4: Open Up Your Cabinet of Curiosities
“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste,” says public radio personality Ira Glass. “But there is this gap. For the first couple of years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is till killer.”

Ideas of things to share:
* Where do you get your inspiration from?
* What sort of things do you fill your head with?
* What do you read?
* Do you subscribe to anything?
* What sites do you visit online?
* What music do you listen to?
* What movies do you see?
* What do you collect?
* Who’s done work you admire?
* Do you have any heroes?
* Who do you follow?

5: Tell Good Stories
If you want to be more effective when sharing yourself and your work, you need to become a better storyteller. You need to know what a good story is and how to tell one.

“A character wants something, goes after it despite opposition (perhaps including his own doubts), and so arrives at a win, lose, or draw.” — John Gardner on the basic plot of all stories

This simple formula can be applied to almost any type of work project: There’s the initial problem, the work done to solve the problem, and the solution.

Remember what the author George Orwell wrote: “Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful.”

We all like to think we’re more complex than a two-sentence explanation, but a two-sentence explanation is usually what the world wants from us. Keep it short and sweet. Strike all adjectives from your bio. My example: I’m a freelance copywriter.

6: Teach What You Know
The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to others. Share your reading list. Point to helpful reference materials. Create some tutorials and post them online. Use pictures, words, and videos. Take people step-by-step through part of your process. As blogger Kathy Sierra says, “Make people better at something they want to be better at.”

7: Don’t Turn Into Human Spam.

You Want Hearts, Not Eyeballs.
“What you want is to follow and be followed by human beings who care about issues you care about. This thing we make together. This thing is about hearts and minds, not eyeballs.” — Jeffrey Feldman

Stop worrying about how many people follow you online and start worrying about the quality of people who follow you.

“Whatever excites you, go do it. Whatever drains you, stop doing it.” — Derek Sivers

8: Learn to Take a Punch.
The first step in evaluating feedback is sizing up who it came from. You want feedback from people who care about you and what you do.

A troll is a person who isn’t interested in improving your work, only provoking you with hateful, aggressive, or upsetting talk. You will gain nothing by engaging with these people. Don’t feed them and they usually go away.

9: Sell Out.
People need to eat and pay the rent… Whether an artist makes money off his work or not, the money has to come from somewhere… We all have to get over our “starving artist” romanticism and the idea that touching money inherently corrupts creativity.”

Paul McCartney has said that he and John Lennon used to sit down before a Beatles songwriting session and say, “Now, let’s write a swimming pool.”

Even if you don’t have anything to sell right now, you should always be collecting email addresses from people who come across your work and want to stay in touch.

10: Stick Around.
The designer Stefan Sagmeister swears by the power of the sabbatical — every seven years, he shuts down his studio and takes a year off. His thinking is that we dedicate the first 25 years or so of our lives to learning, the next 40 years to work, and the last 15 to retirement, so why not take 5 years off retirement and use them to break up the work years? He says the sabbatical has turned out to be invaluable to his work: “Everything that we designed in the seven years following the first sabbatical had its roots in thinking done during the sabbatical.”