Show Your Work! (Austin Kleon) - Book Summary & Lessons

Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work! is a how-to book for creatives to become discovered. Even if your work is fantastic it will probably need a little help to be discovered. Being "a creative" is not only the act of creating - it is being a small business! You have to market your work!

A picture of the book "Show Your Work!" by Austin Kleon on a white surface.
A picture I took of the book Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work! tells you in 10 steps how to get your work discovered. It is packed with insight in a short and concise book for modern creatives. This book has influenced how I think about writing online a lot. Read on to find out why!

⏳The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. Quantity over quality when it comes to content.
  2. Creating content does not have to be difficult, focus on sharing small things from your work consistently and watch as growth happens over time.
  3. The story around your work can be as important as the work you create, use storytelling to tell good stories about your creations.


The book is both a how-to book for artists and creatives to market themselves as well as a love letter to the process of creating. It is hard to not want to start creating things and sharing them with the world after reading this book by Austin Kleon. He is very convincing in showing us that we all have something of value to share with the world.

Life is full of different creative processes and storytelling so we can all benefit from learning the skills that Austin teaches us. You don't have to be an author or artist to use these tools, creating a PowerPoint for work is a form of storytelling and you learn by doing. The book contains many life lessons that will help us all live more rewarding and creative lives.

📖Who Should Read It?

I think this is an excellent book to read for anyone with an interest in creativity and its related fields. It will help you build the confidence to share more of your work. But even if you don't have any creative pursuits currently this book will teach you how to be more purposeful in your consumption of creative work and become a better storyteller.

Even if you don’t believe you have any creative outlets today I think this book would be good to read. Many of us apply creativity in our everyday life and don’t realize it. We all have some knowledge we can share with the world too. I have found writing and sharing it with incredibly rewarding and would recommend anyone else to share their work too!

👩‍🏫Lessons I Have Learned

How my life / behavior / thoughts / ideas have changed as a result of reading the book.

  • I am less anxious to share my work. If I share my writing and no one reads it all that happened is that I am back where I started. Rarely anything worse than silence will happen and that is fine.
  • Consistently showing up and doing the work over time is what will make you successful over time. Creative work is no different, compounding is king.
  • ”Don’t be human spam” - Make sure you consume and appreciate other content and not only shout out into the world. I can fear my content being perceived as spam sometimes. This makes it even more important to show appreciation for the great thinking, writing, and creativity that I have consumed.
  • "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." --> This is an important lesson to learn.

📝Summary + Notes

This book teaches creatives how to make their work findable in a world where more things than ever are being created. It is easier than ever to create work, but it can be hard to stand out and make sure you find an audience for your work. Austin Kleon describes how you in 10 ways can stack the deck in your favor when trying to Show Your Work!

1. Share Something Small Every Day

I believe this is the most important lesson from the book. We should all try to create more and share the lessons we learn. This will not only get the word out regarding your work but also serve to improve the quality of your product. Compounding is the eighth wonder of the world for a reason and this

Austin tells us about the stock and flow model. Flow is the daily content you see in your feed and stock is the evergreen content that resonates as well today as it will in two years. It can be hard to know what will be in the stock before you publish it, but you can use your flow to see what resonates. As you publish every day some of your content will receive more attention and this can form the basis of your stock. This allows data-driven content creation.

Focus on consistently showing up and creating. You will get better at doing the work and your work will improve. It will probably take longer than you thought at first, but maybe not as long as you think either. Remember the famous Bill Gates quote: "Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in ten years".

2. Learn -> Teach -> Repeat

The tip is that you should try to teach something to your earlier self. What are the biggest lessons you have learned? And how did they improve your life? Odds are there is someone out there who is just a step behind you and will benefit from your teaching. Focus on learning new things you can share

This model also encourages you to pursue new interests and learn about them. Follow your curiosities and share what you learn. This will both keep things fresh and interesting but also show your personality through the content. Our competitive advantage is being ourselves, no one else can compete on that factor.

The word "LEARN" with an arrow towards the word "TEACH" and another arrow pointing back at "LEARN" forming a circle.
Great graphic by Austin Kleon

3. Focus on Finding a "Scenius" Instead of Being a Genius

A scenius is "a whole scene of people who were supporting each other, looking at each other's work, copying from each other, stealing ideas, and contributing ideas". This is an ecosystem of talent creating innovation and art in collaboration. This is often where the breakthroughs happen and it can offer a healthier view of creative work.

What does this mean for you? If you are interested in a scene or field of technology try to find a scene and a scenius. Find others who are passionate and knowledgeable about the area and try to assist them if you can. In the process, you will learn a ton and have the opportunity to create novel ideas and insights. This is a way to create progress.

4. Focus on Making Things You Love

If you focus on creating things you love you will attract an audience that loves that stuff too. It can be easy to fall into the trap of trying to follow the trends and create things that will go viral. But to build an audience that truly resonates with you and your message you have to stay true to your interests. This will shine through and the audience can tell. The beauty of the internet is that we have global reach and even for small niches you can often build quite large audiences. So don't be afraid to do what you love!

5. Document the Process of Creating Your Product

Sharing the journey with your audience will build a bond and give the final product more value. Think about the strength of the relationship people today feel like they have with influencers. The reason their endorsements are so valuable is because they feel like the friends of their audience. This is often achieved by bringing people behind the scenes. These people share most of their lives with the public and thus build a strong bond.

A great way to combine this with the habit of publishing something small every day is to take a few minutes when you are done with your daily work and find something small to share. This will get you in the habit of sharing something small with your audience. In addition to having something to publish this can show you what is valuable in your daily work.

6. "The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something." -Clay Shirky

To become better you have to start. This is the biggest hurdle for most people because if you are mediocre or even bad you are still on the spectrum of that domain. Once you have started you can become incrementally better but you have to start somewhere. Avoid getting stuck in overthinking and start improving!

This reminds me of creating a first draft. It is a lot easier to improve a crappy first draft than starting from a blank page and the same is true for creation in general. Once you put your things out there it is easier to find things to improve and work on than it is to just get started. So if you have not started yet, START! Get that crappy first draft out and start improving your craft. No one will notice your work at first when you are learning. It will take time to build an audience and you can improve at the same time. This way by the time more people are noticing your work will be better, that is just how it works, so don't put off starting, like Nike says: "Just Do It".

7. Build Out Your Cabinet of Curiosities

Let your curiosity and interest guide you to topics you learn and write about. Sharing our experiences, thoughts, and memories is what makes our writing uniquely ours. These will resonate with others. Don't be afraid to dive deep, your genuine interest will shine through. This is what it means to build out your cabinet of curiosities, creating a portfolio of interesting experiences and lessons to share.

I would like to share two lessons on this topic that I believe are important insights. First, there is the famous article by Kevin Kelly called 1,000 True Fans, the article states that with the internet you only need 1,000 true fans to create a successful business on the internet. Gaining these true fans will however require you to build a deeper bond with them and provide them with enough value that they will buy your products. This is a new way of operating made possible through the internet.

The second lesson I would like to share is from the author David Foster Wallace. When describing good non-fiction he writes that is to: "Watch somebody reasonably bright but also reasonably average pay far closer attention and think at far more length about all sorts of different stuff than most of us have a chance to in our daily lives". This again highlights a person diving deeper into a topic than most people would and sharing the lessons. Armed with these two lessons I believe you will have greater success in your creative pursuit like me with my online writing.