Share Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon – Review by Jason Griffith

This past weekend, I was browsing the hipster slogans on the notebooks at Target when I came across this one.  Of course, I had to tweet my response.

There’s no doubt that more craft and sweat went into one of Shakespeare’s timeless sonnets than goes into an average tweet (or even fourteen tweets), but if Shakespeare had a website, I’m sure it would have been linked to every available form of social media, just as I imagine the Bard would’ve taken advantage of indoor plumbing and modern transportation.

For today’s students, teachers, and readers, social media is not used primarily for generating content (though Jennifer Egan and the #Twitterfiction festival have done so in cool ways) but rather, at its best, social media provides avenues to connect and share ideas.

18290401Austin Kleon is an author who knows how to connect.  One part writer, one part visual artist, one part TED talker, and one part social media connoisseur, Kleon is a voice for modern creative process and community, which are his two main focal points of Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered.

Like Kleon’s previous Steal Like an Artist, which centered on creative inspiration, Show Your Work is slickly designed to deliver ten lessons on connecting and sharing.  Filled with quotes, graphics, and photos, the lessons are perfect to thumb through and ruminate on like a creative devotional.

Quoting composer Brian Eno, Kleon writes, “Many of the people who we think of as lone geniuses were actually part of ‘a whole scene of people who were supporting each other, looking at each other’s work, copying from each other, stealing ideas, and contributing ideas.'” Immediately, the Lost Generation, the Renaissance painters, and the Beat Poets spring to mind along with more contemporary examples like the slam poets of the Nuyorican scene.  Eno labeled these creative collectives “scenius” in contrast to the myth of the lone, reclusive genius.

With the benefit of social media, scenius is available to everyone.  Readers and authors can connect with the Nerdy Book Club and Goodreads.  Educators can interact on Twitter chats like #titletalk, #edchat, and #teachwriting (one of my personal favorites).  In turn, we can encourage students to develop their own small communities of creative folks who support, inspire, and promote one another.

Kleon writes, “Online, everyone–the artist and the curator, the master and the apprentice, the expert and the amateur–has the ability to contribute something.”  Not only can this type of creative community develop so easily within a singular school setting, but students can connect beyond their own towns and even to their favorite professional creatives.    Show Your Work demonstrates that platforms like Twitter can be used to develop and share creativity and not just for hateful bashing.

Besides developing community, the other major theme of this book is demonstrating process.  I wrote my first Nerdy review on Steal Like an Artist  last October just in time for the NCTE convention.  When I mentioned the review to the folks at the Workman Press booth, they arranged to send me an advance copy of the sequel.

My initial elation cooled upon reading the title.  “Show your work” is a math saying, and I try to stay far away from numbers in my English class.  After I dug in, though, I got what Kleon was saying.  Like in math, it’s important to share process- this is how I got from problem to solution.  We don’t learn by seeing the finished product alone; we have to see the progressive steps.  The same applies to math, art, writing, and all creative endeavors.

When Kleon writes, “whatever the nature of your work, there is an art to what you do, and there are people who would be interested in that art, if only you presented it to them in the right way,” it succinctly describes the art of teaching as well.  As teachers, we strive to present our subject matter to students so that they not only understand it but also understand its significance.  We want to engage students as contributors and not just passive consumers.

Perhaps most relevant to the modern educational landscape is when Kleon notes, “The stories you tell about the work you do have a huge effect on how people feel and what they understand about your work, and how people feel and what they understand about your work effects how they value it.”  Like students and artists, teachers need to connect and share our good work.

Kleon ends by encouraging writers and artists to use #showyourwork to tag work in progress, and peppered among the Kleon shout-outs and book praise are some creative glimpses.  Perhaps some are sonnets in the making.

Jason Griffith (@JGriff_Teach) currently teaches 10th grade English at Carlisle High School in Pennsylvania after teaching 8th grade for nearly a decade.  A National Board Certified Teacher as well as a National Writing Project Fellow and Teacher Consultant with the Capital Area Writing Project, Jason was the 2012 recipient of NCTE’s Edwin A. Hoey Award for Outstanding Middle School English Language Arts Teacher.  In his free time, Jason trades ideas with Kelly, his talented artist-wife, he coaches the high school swim team, and he hopes that his next creative non-fiction submission will be a breakthrough.