The Creative Process: The Power of Sharing Your Work

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Show Your Work" by Austin Kleon. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Why should you share your creative process? Why is it more beneficial to show the process rather than the product?

In Show Your Work!, Austin Kleon argues that the best way to promote your work is by sharing every step of the creative process. There are three benefits of sharing every step to the world, which he describes in detail.

Find out more about the value of sharing the creative process.

Sharing the Creative Process

Many creative people hesitate to share their work because they don’t feel they have anything worth showing. Kleon believes a solution to this problem is to share the process of creating, not just the finished products. By distinguishing between these two aspects of creativity, Kleon seeks to reframe the idea of sharing your work.

Kleon offers three main reasons why you should share the creative process. First, doing so lets you focus on developing your skills while growing your audience. Second, it’s a powerful way to make valuable connections. Third, it can enable you to live the life you want to live.

Reason #1: You Can Make Your Learning Process Work for You

Many artists and creatives feel that the best way to find an audience is to simply be really good at what you do. Kleon agrees that it’s important to be good at what you do, but he believes that you don’t have to put off finding an audience until you feel that you’ve gotten good enough. Instead, by opening up your learning process for others to see, you can focus on honing your craft while you attract an audience—thus getting more return on your investment of time and effort: You’ll both improve your skills and expand your market by engaging in the same activities. 

As Kleon sees it, the most successful creatives incorporate sharing into their routines. They don’t wait until they have finely crafted, finished pieces to unveil; instead, they share the work that goes into making those pieces all along the way. Kleon suggests that by doing this, you can make your learning process work for you as a powerful tool for self-promotion.

Overcoming Perfectionism

Kleon’s suggestion that you show what you’re doing while you’re in the process of developing your skills is an uncomfortable one for many people with a certain personality trait: perfectionism. Perfectionists typically set unreasonably high standards for themselves or others and obsess over succeeding. The irony of this is that perfectionists often fear failure so much that they don’t ever start working toward their goals—they’re paralyzed by the fear of failure

In this frame of mind, a perfectionist will hesitate to share the less-than-perfect stages of their process because they’re just not good enough. This type of thinking easily becomes a barrier to ever finding support for their work.  

Experts suggest that one way to overcome this mindset is to avoid comparing yourself to other people. In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown argues that one way to stop comparing yourself to others is to celebrate your individuality: Focus on how your creativity uniquely expresses your skills and experiences. 

Reason #2: You Can Make Valuable Connections

By sharing your work throughout all phases of the creative process, you can tap into a network of interested people with whom you can make valuable connections, writes Kleon. These connections can serve a few purposes: They can become sources of creative collaboration and sources of support—financial and otherwise.

Reason #3: You Can Live the Life You Want to Live

Kleon believes that by letting people see how your creative process works, you’ll not only get to spend time doing the work you love while attracting interested people—you’ll also invite opportunities that can allow you to craft the lifestyle you’ve wanted. Do you want to earn an income off your creative hobby or skillset? Do you dream about doing the work you love all the time? 

Kleon adds that being transparent about how you work can set you up for this: A potential employer may see value in your skills and offer you a job that allows you to do more of what you enjoy, or a patron may commission ongoing work from you. If people are familiar with what you can do because they’ve seen what you’ve shared, such possibilities become real. Yet you’ll only generate them by putting yourself out there. If you instead choose to not show what you do, it likely won’t ever be seen, understood, or appreciated, claims Kleon. That’s a recipe for giving up and never realizing your aspirations. 

The Creative Process: The Power of Sharing Your Work

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  • How to succeed at your creative endeavors
  • How to make money off your creative work
  • Why you should share your creative process

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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