What I’m reading: “Show Your Work!”

“You’re only as good as your record collection.”

DJ Spooky

I’ve always been a reader. I can’t remember a time in my life that I wasn’t reading. Even while in school, when I had to read a lot of assigned material, I made time to read “for me.”

My favorite genre has always been mysteries. But, I also love to read biographies/autobiographies and “real life” stories. A few years ago, I made a conscious decision to start reading more non-fiction. I aim to alternate non-fiction and fiction books, but I’ll admit that I don’t always make that goal (often, what I read next is at the whim of what’s available at the library). I tend to read books about business or politics when I read non-fiction (or biographies/autobiographies).

I read on a Nook (e-reader). I like always having one (or more) books with me. I like being able to easily read in bed. I like being able to increase the font when I’m tired. Not all books lend themselves to e-reading, though, mainly books with graphics.

I had placed this book on hold at the library a while ago and it finally came my turn to download it. “Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share your Creativity and Get Discovered” by Austin Kleon is a joy to read. It’s a quick book (I read it in about 2 hours) and it’s filled with quotes (like the one the opens this post) and artwork (which actually displays on my e-reader, so kudos for that!).

Chapter 4, “Open Up Your Cabinet of Curiosities” contains the quote I posted above and it’s what inspired me to start this blog. Like most graphic artists, I take photos of my works–both completed and in progress. I also save all sorts of things that inspire me. And, like most people running a business, I make notes and keep them everywhere. But, I’m terrible at organizing this “stuff.” My photos are in Google Photos, in my camera, on IG and Facebook, and my notes are everywhere–on computer and on paper. But relying on third parties to host your creative content is dangerous. This book makes that point clear: Remember MySpace? I do some of the things he recommends: I have my own website, for example. I decided that if I posted my work and inspiration on this blog, I’d have a place to see my progress and refer back to things I’ve saved. So, you’re likely to see all sorts of things on this blog: inspiration, my in-progress and finished work, and business tips.

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

Derek Sivers

I’ll edit that to “whatever drains you, outsource it!” LOL I’m lucky to have some great freelancers who assist me in my business. If you find yourself doing all the “day-to-day” in your business with no time to create, think about what you can outsource.

From the book, “Fear is often just the imagination taking a wrong turn” (Chapter 8). That sentence made me think. I’m guilty of letting my imagination go to bad outcomes rather than good ones–especially when trying something new. I’ll try to remember this quote next time I go down that wrong path.

I have been a fan and friend of George Kao for years, and George advocates giving away content for free. This book makes that point, but cautions, “You just have to be as generous as you can, but selfish enough to get your work done” (Chapter 9). That sentiment resonanted with me. I like to give away my knowledge (and even my work at times), but I also need to remember that time spent sharing is time taken away from doing my work (i.e., creating and making quilts).

I’m well educated and consider myself a life-long learner. I hosted an exchange student 12 years ago, and as I was packing to attend a quilt show where I’d be taking classes, she asked, “You’re such a good quilter. Why do you need more classes?” I explained that there’s always a possibility to learn a new technique or learn another way of doing something. From the book, “When you feel like you’ve learned whatever there is to learn from what you’re doing, it’s time to change course and find something new to learn so that you can move forward. You can’t be content with mastery; you have to push yourself to become a student again. ‘Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough,” writes author Alain de Botton'” (Chapter 9). I think back to that conversation with my exchange student and wonder at how much I’ve learned in the past 12 years!

From the book, “When you throw out old work, what you’re really doing is making room for new work. … Even if you try to toss it aside, the lessons that you’ve learned from it will seep into what you do next” (Chapter 9). I’ve always used “after-action reviews,” and I’m trying a new planning system this year (The Maker’s Yearbook) that encourages you to review every month and event (e.g., show) to see what you can learn from it.

Overall, I was inspired by this book. If you’re looking to expand your own creative business, I recommend that you pick up a copy.

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