Two years ago, I was electrified by Austin Kleon‘s Steal Like an Artist. I gave a copy to each of the students in my literary magazine club at school, and have continued to booktalk it in the library. It made its way onto our Best Books of 2012 list.
Now I’m pleased to offer a review of Kleon’s follow-up, Show Your Work!, in which he tackles the question of how to get discovered. While this book has less to offer teens than Steal Like an Artist, it is still valuable, especially for young people who are seriously pursuing a creative field.
There is an extensive post by Maria Popova on Brain Pickings about the book, including multiple quotes and examples. She sums it up perfectly with this phrase: “In some ways, the book is the mirror-image of Kleon’s debut — rather than encouraging you to “steal” from others, meaning be influenced by them, it offers a blueprint to making your work influential enough to be theft-worthy.”
KLEON, Austin. Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered. illus. by Austin Kleon. 224p. Workman. Mar. 2014. pap. $11.95. ISBN 9780761178972.
While Steal Like an Artist (Workman, 2012) was about inspiring creativity, Kleon’s follow-up is about self-promotion in a digital age, about “how to influence others by letting them steal from you.” The central concept is sharing one’s process online as a way to gather fans and get to know other people with similar interests. They may become collaborators, clients, or patrons. Kleon advocates sharing something every day—but not just anything. Use the “So What? ” test, and don’t share pet and sunset photos. The strongest sections are on attribution and the importance of listening to (or reading, watching, or experiencing) what others share. Likewise, the concepts of flow (daily tweets or posts) and stock (the durable product) are likely to be valuable new ideas for teen readers. There are a lot of “do nots” in the second half and at times the tone is a bit strident, especially in the sections on taking criticism, avoiding “vampires” (people who steal energy), and earning money. Steal Like an Artist is an ideal book for beginners, perfect for teens. Show Your Work! speaks less to a young audience, with advice on sustaining work over the long haul, making a living, and finding time for creative work while bringing up children. Still, for the serious creative young adult, it holds many excellent recommendations offered in an easy-to-digest, appealing manner. The black-and- white design is dynamic, varied, full of quotes, illustrations using Kleon’s “Newspaper Blackout” technique, and diagrams that reiterate the text in a graphic way.—Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City