In the movie Julie and Julia, aspiring writer and call center worker Julie Powell debates starting a blog, claiming that “you’re not a writer unless someone publishes you.” Her partner encourages her to start one anyway, telling her “See that’s what’s so great about blogs. You don’t have to be published. You can just go online, press enter, and there it is, out there.”
In 2002, when Julie and Julia was set, to have something out there on the internet was synonymous with the ability to feature your content on a worldwide platform free from publishers and other gatekeepers. Today, almost 20 years later, content that is simply out there in the vastness of today’s internet may as well be floating around in outer space.
As English majors, we are consistently creating content that is meaningful to us and likely many others, but discovering the online space where our work will be appreciated and reciprocated is an entirely different terrain to navigate. If you’re an introvert like me, then the idea of “networking” to get your stuff out there is about as appealing as a finals week sans caffeine. Luckily, there’s an alternative route to self-promotion, and it’s beautifully outlined in Austin Kleon’s book, Show You Work!
Kleon introduces Show Your Work! as a beginner’s manual for people who hate the idea of self-promotion, and shapes the book around the concept that the key to becoming known for your work is not your end product, it’s your process. By sharing your process with others, you’ll attract an audience who loves what you love while feeding into an ecology of creators who are constantly swapping ideas and supporting one another.
The book builds on that concept in ten short chapters:
- You Don’t Have to Be a Genius
- Think Process, Not Product
- Share Something Small Every Day
- Open up Your Cabinet of Curiosities
- Tell Good Stories
- Teach What You Know
- Don’t Turn into Human Spam
- Learn to Take a Punch
- Sell Out
- Stick Around
Kleon packs these valuable chapters into a compact book that is both easy to read and visually appealing with its many illustrations and sleek design. Don’t let the aesthetics of the physical book distract you from the weight of Kleon’s advice, or trick you into thinking that implementing it is easy. While Kleon’s concepts are deceptively simple, they require an ongoing process of consistently and authentically documenting and sharing your work online as you create. By sharing your creative process piece by piece, no matter how mundane or messy those pieces may seem, you allow others to track the entire production and mindset behind your work, instead of simply consuming a finished product.
The beauty of Show Your Work! is that it rejects the idea that you must be a creative genius in order to make your work findable or build influence. Instead, Kleon embraces the learning curve of our creative processes and the enthusiasm of amateur creators to pursue new possibilities while accepting mistakes. If you feel like you lack the creative knack that is assumed to be inherent in all English majors, or are tired of people assuming your writing or creative process is perfectly streamlined simply because “you’re an English major,” then this read will provide a breath of fresh air.
Whether you’re a senior hoping to be noticed by employers or want to plug into a community of creators who share your passions, Show Your Work! is an excellent resource that provides you with the tools to make your work findable in the digital age.
You can connect with Sarah Dalton on LinkedIn.