You probably won’t find a bookseller that turns up a more fervent grimace at self-help books than me. Most of them are filled with fluff and feel-goodness that defies the reality of creative life or life in general, but Austin Kleon’s newest book offers some very sound advice to anyone with a creative drive on how to navigate their craft, passion, hobby, or art (not with a capital A…don’t get a big head yet). Beyond the subtitle’s boast of getting “discovered,” Kleon gives practical and inspiring advice on how to navigate the world of creating anything and the value of sharing what you do. Among the advice inside, the one that resonates with me the most is “Think Process, Not Product.” It’s a short and obvious chapter on something that many people overlook. Creating anything isn’t necessarily about finishing the next great novel, painting, or hit song, but about the steps it takes to get there and taking a pleasure in the struggle, rather than basking in the glory of adoration. Beyond practical advice on the creative process, Austin also examines the value of the internet as a tool to share… and what is worth sharing… which is something many of us tend to struggle with. (Guilty!) Selfies, cats, dogs, critiques, and complaints? No! Show your work, inspiration and process and you just might find others who share your passions. Turn down that nose, check out Austin’s advice and get back to work so you actually have something to show!
Like a distilled and quick take on Lewis Hyde’s essential The Gift, Kleon cares about the process of creativity, both serious and silly, and the value it contributes to our culture.
The folks at Bookpeople here in Austin, Texas are slaving away getting the last batch of Show Your Work! preorders ready for me to sign on Monday. Today is the last day to order a signed copy. They ship everywhere! Order yours here.
You have to live your life with a certain blind confidence that if it’s your destiny to succeed at these things, it will happen, if you just continue to follow a straight path, to do you work as conscientiously and as creatively as you can, and to just stay open to all opportunity and experience. There’s a performing motto at Second City…to say yes instead of no. It’s actually an improvisational rule…It’s about supporting the other person. And the corollary to that is if you concentrate on making other people look good, then we all have the potential to look good. If you’re just worried about yourself—How am I doing? How am I doing?—which is kind of a refrain in Hollywood, you know, people are desperately trying to make their careers in isolation, independent of everyone around them.
And I’ve always found that my career happened as a result of a tremendous synergy of all the talented people I’ve worked with, all helping each other, all connecting, and reconnecting in different combinations. So…identify talented people around you and then instead of going into competition with them, or trying to wipe them out, make alliances, make creative friendships that allow you and your friends to grow together, because someday your friend is going to be sitting across a desk from you running a movie studio.
You know what’s underrated? The simple act of looking up a word in the dictionary.
And a few people seemed shocked that I actually use a paper dictionary.
A big, 10-pound American Heritage, no less.
A few months ago I went out and bought the biggest, nicest dictionary I could find. I wanted a huge honking dictionary, open on a side table in my office, like one of those big bibles you see at a mass.
If you consider your mission exploring language, flipping through pages of words to land on a particular definition is a feature, not a bug.
For example, did you know that “patina” comes after “patient”? One word about enduring time, the other describing its residue.
I like to go in depth as to where I know without a doubt that those who receive me understand me. I know they breathe, I know they cry, I know they’re hurt, I know they love, I know they hate. They have all these different feelings. When you speak in terms of depth rather than ride along the shallow surfaces, they can only give you one true reaction as to what you’re talking about.