'Show Your Work!' encourages creative sharing

By Rosemarie Howard

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, April 12 2014 1:35 p.m. MDT

Austin Kleon is the author of "Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered."

Blue Lily Photography

“Show Your Work!” (Workman Publishing, $11.95), Austin Kleon’s most recent book, is a follow-up and companion to “Steal Like an Artist,” which was on the New York Times' "Paperback Advice and Misc." best-seller list.

“I like how it’s a Robin Hood box set,” Kleon said in a recent interview. “First you steal, then you share.”

Do what, now?

Kleon attributes the inspiration for the book “Show Your Work!” to Brian Eno, the musician and record producer who wrote about the notion of “scenius” — the idea that creativity is usually not the result of a lone individual, but rather a community of people.

“I took his idea of 'scenius,’ ” Kleon said, “and that really laid out the whole foundation of the book for me.”

Through a blog post, writer Adam Sternbergh told Kleon that “Steal like an Artist” helped him write his latest book, “Shovel Ready.”

“I was floored that here’s a book that I felt really, really strong about, and if I had even an ounce of anything to do with it, that makes me feel really happy,” Kleon said. “I think that it illustrates the principle in ‘Share Your Work’ of ‘scenius,’ the idea that you put your work into the world and, if it does what it’s supposed to do, it influences others.”

Through the idea of “scenius,” “Show Your Work!” offers an alternate way of getting noticed. Instead of networking, Kleon suggests, just be findable by consistently using the Internet to post bits and pieces of current work and ideas.

The book offers 10 concepts for sharing creative work in 10 short, easy-to-read, entertaining chapters that have titles such as “You Don’t Have to Be a Genius,” “Think Process, Not Product,” “Share Something Small Every Day,” “Teach What You Know” and “Stick Around.”

“I’m fond of saying that creativity is just a tool — a way of operating,” Kleon said. “I think my purpose with these last two books is to really get people into the idea that creativity is for everyone — that the world isn’t divided into creatives and non-creatives. Creative is not a noun.”

The author said he wants people to learn how to access their own creativity because it improves all kinds of work — not just art.

Because people are usually more interested in his book’s content, Kleon said he doesn’t usually get asked, “What is it like to write and illustrate your book?” He considers the delivery system to be as important as the content.

“The delivery system for this book really comes from my love of comics and illustrated books,” Kleon said. “I feel like I’m making picture books for adults.” He said one of the reasons people respond to his books so well is that they are very visual.

The six-inch square, 215-page book is full of clever black-and-white graphics that strike a pleasing balance between the art and the words, which complement each other nicely. It’s a quick, easy read full of practical ideas succinctly expressed.

“That’s something I’ve done very intentionally,” Kleon said. “Part of my own personal journey is to figure out a way to unite my love of visual art with my love for reading and writing. It has slowly become my trademark — art with words in it, and books with pictures in them.”

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