Show Your Work

The Book in Three Sentences

  • Let others into your process—then let them steal from you.
  • You can’t find your voice if you don’t use it.
  • Share without oversharing (think work; not workouts).
  • “You don’t really find an audience for your work; they find you.”
  • Almost all of the people Austin looks up to and tries to steal from today, regardless of their profession, have built sharing into their routine.
  • Instead of wasting their time “networking,” most people Austin know are taking advantage of the network. By generously sharing their ideas and their knowledge, they often gain an audience that they can then leverage when they need it—for fellowship, feedback, or patronage.
  • “Being a valuable part of a scenius is not necessarily about how smart or talented you are, but about what you have to contribute—the ideas you share, the quality of the connections you make, and the conversations you start.”
  • “Because they have little to lose, amateurs are willing to try anything and share the results.” 
  • “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities,” said Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki. “In the expert’s mind, there are few.”
  • Clay Shirky on creativity: “On the spectrum of creative work, the difference between the mediocre and the good is vast. Mediocrity is, however, still on the spectrum; you can move from mediocre to good in increments. The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something.”
  • “Amateurs know that contributing something is better than contributing nothing.” 
  • “Raw enthusiasm is contagious.”
  • Amateurs will use whatever tools they can get their hands on to try to get their ideas into the world.
  • “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.”
  • “Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you.”
  • The only way to find your voice is to use it. It’s hardwired, built into you. Talk about the things you love. Your voice will follow.
  • “It sounds a little extreme, but in this day and age, if your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist. We all have the opportunity to use our voices, to have our say, but so many of us are wasting it. If you want people to know about what you do and the things you care about, you have to share.”
  • “Start reading the obituaries every morning. Take inspiration from the people who muddled through life before you—they all started out as amateurs, and they got where they were going by making do with what they were given, and having the guts to put themselves out there. Follow their example.”
  • “Whatever the nature of your work, there is an art to what you do, and there are people who would be interested in that art, if only you presented it to them in the right way.”
  • “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. Take advantage of all the cheap, easy tools at your disposal—these days, most of us carry a fully functional multimedia studio around in our smartphones.”
  • “Overnight success is a myth. Dig into almost every overnight success story and you’ll find about a decade’s worth of hard work and perseverance. Building a substantial body of work takes a long time—a lifetime, really—but thankfully, you don’t need that time all in one big chunk. So forget about decades, forget about years, and forget about months. Focus on days.”
  • “Don’t show your lunch or your latte; show your work.”
  • “Don’t worry about everything you post being perfect. Science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon once said that 90 percent of everything is crap.”
  • “The act of sharing is one of generosity—you’re putting something out there because you think it might be helpful or entertaining to someone on the other side of the screen.”
  • Austin had a professor in college who returned her class’s graded essays, walked up to the chalkboard, and wrote in huge letters: “SO WHAT?” She threw the piece of chalk down and said, “Ask yourself that every time you turn in a piece of writing.”
  • “Small things, over time, can get big.”
  • “Don’t think of your website as a self-promotion machine, think of it as a self-invention machine.”
  • “Over the years, you will be tempted to abandon [your website] for the newest, shiniest social network. Don’t give in. Don’t let it fall into neglect. Think about it in the long term. Stick with it, maintain it, and let it change with you over time.”
  • William Burroughs’s advice to Patti Smith: “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.”
  • “We all carry around the weird and wonderful things we’ve come across while doing our work and living our lives. These mental scrapbooks form our tastes, and our tastes influence our work.”
  • “Your influences are all worth sharing because they clue people into who you are and what you do—sometimes even more than your own work.”
  • “All it takes to uncover hidden gems is a clear eye, an open mind, and a willingness to search for inspiration in places other people aren’t willing or able to go.”
  • “You should always share the work of others as if it were your own, treating it with respect and care.”
  • “Don’t share things you can’t properly credit. Find the right credit, or don’t share.”
  • “Human beings want to know where things came from, how they were made, and who made them. The stories you tell about the work you do have a huge effect on how people feel and what they understand about your work, and how people feel and what they understand about your work affects how they value it.”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “Teaching people doesn’t subtract value from what you do, it actually adds to it.”
  • “If you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader first.”
  • “If you want fans, you have to be a fan first. If you want to be accepted by a community, you have to first be a good citizen of that community.”
  • “If you’re only pointing to your own stuff online, you’re doing it wrong.”
  • “Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love and you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff. It’s that simple.”