Show Your Work – part 7

Don’t turn into human spam

Shut up and listen

Participate in the community you’re trying to join. Go to shows, read journals, and get to know what’s out there already.
Art without feedback is only half-done; if you want to get, you have to give.
Be thoughtful, be considerate, be open.

“The writing community is full of […] people who want to be published in journals even though they don’t even read the magazines they want to be published in. These people deserve the rejections that they will undoubtedly receive.”

Dan Chaon

You want hearts, not eyeballs

As with many things, the quality of your followers is more important than the quantity. Accruing 10 people who talk with you and interact with your work is better than 100 or 1000 followers who might as well be bots or dead accounts.
Faffing about, following people you don’t care about, talking about things you don’t care about isn’t going to get you anywhere you want to go.
Be “interest-ing” – have interests, be curious, pay attention. Be interested.

The vampire test

“Whatever excites you, go do it. Whatever drains you, stop doing it.” – Derek Sivers Get rid of anything – jobs, people, hobbies – that leave you feeling drained and tired. They don’t add anything of value to your life.

Identify your fellow knuckleballers

A knuckleball is a slow, awkward pitch that’s really hard to throw with any kind of consistency, and is equally unpredictable to the batter, the catcher and the pitcher. Given that it’s so hard to throw reliably, knuckleball pitchers get together and share tips and advice, even when they’re on opposing teams.
People who share your interests, your obsessions, your mission, are few and far between so, when you find them, hold them dear, collaborate often and keep them close.

Meet up in meatspace

Attend meetups, arrange meetups. If you’re travelling, let online friends know you’ll be in town. Ask them to show you around and try to convert online relationships into offline ones.

Show Your Work – part 6

Teach what you know

Share your trade secrets

Teaching doesn’t mean competition – having the knowledge doesn’t mean you can act on it.
To improve, emulate people you admire; what they do, when, how. Master studies aren’t limited just to the finished article, but can include schedules, training regimes, reading lists, and attitude.
Find the schedules of your idols (don’t be a creep about it) and see how
much time they spend studying, dealing with correspondence and
relaxing, and try to emulate that, at least for a while; check their reading lists and see what inspires them and where they learned their trade and check those resources. See what works
for you – then publish your reading lists and schedules and whatnot.

“The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to others.”

Share materials, references, influences… Making tutorials, step-by-step walk-throughs and the like helps you refine your process, generate interest, build a relationship with your audience, and produce content.

Show Your Work! – part 5

Tell good stories

Work doesn’t speak for itself

Humans are great storytellers and people want to know what something is, where it came from, why it was made and by whom.
That information is key to how people react to your work and how much they value it; people’s assessment of a thing is affected by what they know about it.

Structure is everything

Well-structured stories are “tidy, sturdy, and logical”. Real life needs a lot of editing to even vaguely resemble a well-structured story!

John Gardner has a story formula: “A character wants something, goes after it despite opposition (perhaps including his own doubts), and so arrives at a win, lose or draw” (pp99)

Every piece of work you produce has its own story – get the idea, do the work, succeed (or don’t). Pitches follow a similar structure – where have you been, what do you want and why, what did you do to get it; where are you now?; where are you going, and how can your audience help you get there? Speak directly, respect your audience, be brief, proof-read. Like any skill, story-telling gets better the more you do it.

Talk about yourself at parties

You should be able to explain your work to a five-year-old. Keep your audience in mind, but keep it simple, humble, true and brief. Two or three sentences should do it, and they should be as free of adjectives as possible (“aspiring”, “amazing”, even “critically-acclaimed” can go).

Recommended reading:

  • Significant objects, Glenn and Walker

Show Your Work! – part 4

Open up your cabinet of curiosities

Don’t be a hoarder

Even before you’re ready to share our work, you can share your appreciation for the work of others.
Things you read, watch, listen and subscribe to, sites you visit, artists you admire and are inspired by – things that humanise you, can help connect you with other fans, and lead people to find things that inspire them. Share, get other people interested in your interests and maybe they’ll share their interests.

No guilty pleasures

Inspiration can come from anywhere, no matter how ridiculous or lowbrow. Wear your heart on your sleeve and love your inspiration unashamedly and authentically.

“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.”

Simon Pegg

Credit is always due

When you share work, credit the artist.
What is it, who made it, when and where? Why are you sharing it, where can people see more of it, and where did you get it from?
Attribution without a link is pointless; people have better things to do than go hunting for information on a whim, but they’ll click a link if there is one.