“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,” says artist Austin Kleon in his new book, “Show Your Work.”
Austin Kleon is the New York Times bestselling author of three illustrated books: Steal Like An Artist (Workman, 2012), a manifesto for creativity in the digital age; Show Your Work!(Workman, 2014), a guide to sharing creativity and getting discovered; and Newspaper Blackout (Harper Perennial, 2010), a collection of poetry made by redacting words from newspaper articles with a permanent marker. Kleon’s new book lays down ten ground rules for being an artist- which can be applied to all critical thinkers in the modern age:
Sharing is a form of caring about your readers, we learn, and “new articulations” are only possible through building up respect from your audience:
Almost all of the people I look up to and try to steal from today, regardless of their profession, have built sharing into their routine. These people aren’t schmoozing at cocktail parties; they’re too busy for that. They’re cranking away in their studios, their laboratories, or their cubicles, but instead of maintaining absolute secrecy and hoarding their work, they’re open about what they’re working on, and they’re consistently posting bits and pieces of their work, their ideas, and what they’re learning online. Instead of wasting their time “networking,” they’re 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.
Kleon reminds that in order to move from the realm of amateur to expert, we create trust in our viewers by sharing our journey. As you may have noticed, at Wonder Sonder, we have been exploring how artists interact with their craft as well as their readers, and while it has been a personal journey to uncover secrets of good writing, the shared process is precisely what has helped the blog receive traction amongst readers looking to complicate their understandings, just like me, on their craft.
It’s imperative to be true to share our journeys in the digital age, says Kleon, who provides us with a blueprint for how to do so with his own public appearances, speaking about creativity in the digital age for organizations such as Pixar, Google, SXSW, TEDx, and The Economist. He writes:
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. Find a scenius, pay attention to what others are sharing, and then start taking note of what they’re not sharing. Be on the lookout for voids that you can fill with your own efforts, no matter how bad they are at first. . . . Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you.
Indeed, Kleon heralds to us that sharing can work in receiving recognition and acclaim. Kleon’s work has been translated into over a dozen languages and featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, PBS Newshour, and in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. New York Magazine called his work “brilliant,” The Atlantic called him “positively one of the most interesting people on the Internet,” and The New Yorker said his poems “resurrect the newspaper when everybody else is declaring it dead.”