Book Notes: Show Your Work!

Review of Show Your Work by Austin Kleon on Make Your Art

If I know you, you probably have seen Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist talk at the TEDxKC show. I’ll be reviewing his book based on that talk in a few weeks.

Additionally, if I know you, you probably haven’t sat through the longer talk on sharing your work.

But that’s ok, now you don’t have to! Austin made it even easier with another nice graphic summarizing the whole thing (he’s also a designer)

Show your work By Austin Kleon
Honorably stolen from

So why read this book if that’s all right there for you?

Two reasons.

  1. He tells good stories that help reinforce his methods.
  2. Not too many.

Austin manages to pack a lot of convincing context into a compact package. I read the whole thing one morning after dropping my kids off at summer camp.

This is not a science book, and much of the book is anecdotal. While I didn’t agree with _every_ generalization, I thought 97.23%* of them were spot on. In this particular genre of book, let’s call it pep-talk/advice, it doesn’t matter if the rules have been tested or proven. The stories are designed to resonate, and leave you feeling inspired to get to work and show it.

In fact, in this book, one of my favorite examples is his “Vampire test.” I’m writing another post on a similar theory, but it goes something like “Spend time with X person. If you feel like you’re out of energy afterwards, don’t hang out with X anymore.” It’s an easy way to tell if something is giving you energy, or sucking you dry.

The way this book fed me and could feed you is through a re-framing. You won’t find a new step by step for crushing it on Instagram, but you will find a way to relate to how you show your work. That’s teaching to fish.

And much like James Clear’s Mastering Creativity, Austin doesn’t waste time with a lot of roundabout storytelling. You won’t get 40 pages telling you what he’s going to tell you, he just tells you. Austin’s writing is concise, and to the point.

The week I was reading this book, I was also experimenting with new Instagram strategies. I was sort of on vacation (parents are never actually on vacation), and I was filled with worry and stress about posting at the right time and the right stuff and having stuff to post. After re-prioritizing around Austin’s framework, I was able to organize my sharing in a way that felt more authentic to me.

So, yes, show your work. If one way feels crappy, it’s ok to stop. Don’t worry, just keep showing your work.


Because there’s more!

Feel free to grab a coffee and get your copy of Show Your Work.

Show Your Work, book notes from Marc Scheff


Background on the “notes” part of Book Notes: I stole all my book note taking ideas from Lauren. I do underline in books, and when I’m done I transfer the big ideas into my notes. Since starting this practice, I have found it much easier to recall broad themes and specific take-aways. After some practice, I think you can even read my handwriting. 


* A number I made up

7 thoughts on “Book Notes: Show Your Work!”

  1. Oh cool!

    I like his other books. I’ll need to hit the library. I love your book notes. The more I see them, I more I think I might try to make some.

    Any chance you guys could do a quick lesson on making them?

    I tried with Zen to Done and just ended up making an outline. :/

    Thanks again!

  2. Hey @sarahdahlinger, that’s a great idea for a short video. I’ll see what we can do!

    I think the one tip I have for now is, don’t take notes as you go. Note take after. That way you can look through your underline/outline and make sense of it and the notes are thought completions and not pieces.

  3. This looks like a really cool book and I’ll try to check it out!
    Your struggles with Instagram reminded me of my own struggle with Instagram this week. I try to post at a specific time when I want to but sometimes, I’ll post at a different time and I get less engagement and it kind of bums me out. But a few days ago, I made a quick sketch and wrote some reflective thoughts in the description and posted it at a different time than I usually do. And surprisingly, I got a lot of engagement! You never know what will work but I’ll sure try to recreate that!

  4. Enjoyed this blog post a lot! Just wanted to point out that both video links for Austin Cleon go to the same 11 minute video. Other than that, thank you for another great book rec 🙂


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