Show Your Work!


A New Way of Operating

“Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.”—John Cleese

If you just focus on getting really good, Martin says, people will come to you.

1. You Don’t Have to Be a Genius.

Find A Scenius.

“Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.”—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Be An Amateur.

“That’s all any of us are: amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.”—Charlie Chaplin

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities,” said Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki. “In the expert’s mind, there are few.”

You Can’t Find Your Voice If You Don’t Use It.

“Find your voice, shout it from the rooftops, and keep doing it until the people that are looking for you find you.”— Dan Harmon

Read Obituaries.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.”—Steve Jobs

2. Think Process, Not Product.

Take People Behind The Scenes.

“A lot of people are so used to just seeing the outcome of work. They never see the side of the work you go through to produce the outcome.”—Michael Jackson

Become A Documentarian Of What You Do.

“In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen—really seen.”—Brené Brown

“No one is going to give a damn about your résumé; they want to see what you have made with your own little fingers.” - David Car

3. Share Something Small Everyday.

Send Out a Daily Dispatch.

“Put yourself, and your work, out there every day, and you’ll start meeting some amazing people.”—Bobby Solomon

“One day at a time. It sounds so simple. It actually is simple but it isn’t easy: It requires incredible support and fastidious structuring.”—Russell Brand

alt text

The “So What?” Test.

“Make no mistake: This is not your diary. You are not letting it all hang out. You are picking and choosing every single word.”—Dani Shapiro

Turn Your Flow Into Stock.

“If you work on something a little bit every day, you end up with something that is massive.”—Kenneth Goldsmith

Small things, over time, can get big.

Build A Good (Domain) Name.

“Carving out a space for yourself online, somewhere where you can express yourself and share your work, is still one of the best possible investments you can make with your time.”—Andy Baio

Don’t think of your website as a self-promotion machine, think of it as a self-invention machine.

4. Open Up Your Cabinet of Curiosities.

Don’t Be A Hoarder.

“The problem with hoarding is you end up living off your reserves. Eventually, you’ll become stale. If you give away everything you have, you are left with nothing. This forces you to look, to be aware, to replenish. . . . Somehow the more you give away, the more comes back to you.”—Paul Arden

“You’re only as good as your record collection.”—DJ Spooky

No Guilty Pleasures.

“I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you f—ing like something, like it.”—Dave Grohl

All it takes to uncover hidden gems is a clear eye, an open mind, and a willingness to search for inspiration in places other people aren’t willing or able to go.

“Do what you do best and link to the rest.”—Jeff Jarvis

5. Tell Good Stories.

Work Doesn’t Speak For Itself

“To fake a photograph, all you have to do is change the caption. To fake a painting, change the attribution.”—Errol Morris

“‘The cat sat on a mat’ is not a story. ‘The cat sat on the dog’s mat’ is a story.”—John le Carré

Structure is Everything

“In the first act, you get your hero up a tree. The second act, you throw rocks at him. For the third act, you let him down.”—George Abbott

Talk About Yourself at Parties.

“You got to make your case.”—Kanye West

George Orwell wrote: “Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful.”

“Whatever we say, we’re always talking about ourselves.”—Alison Bechdel

6. Teach What You Know.

Share Your Trade Secrets.

“The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”—Annie Dillard

7. Don’t Turn Into Human Spam.

Shut Up and Listen

“When people realize they’re being listened to, they tell you things.”—Richard Ford

You Want Hearts, Not Eyeballs.

“What you want is to follow and be followed by human beings who care about issues you care about. This thing we make together. This thing is about hearts and minds, not eyeballs.”—Jeffrey Zeldman

The Vampire Test.

“Whatever excites you, go do it. Whatever drains you, stop doing it.”—Derek Sivers

“Part of the act of creating is in discovering your own kind. They are everywhere. But don’t look for them in the wrong places.”—Henry Miller

Identify Your Fellow Knuckleballers.

“It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others.”—Susan Sontag

Meet up in Meatspace.

“You and I will be around a lot longer than Twitter, and nothing substitutes face to face.”—Rob Delaney

8. Learn to Take a Punch.

Let ‘Em Take Their Best Shot.

“I ain’t going to give up. Every time you think I’m one place, I’m going to show up someplace else. I come pre-hated. Take your best shot.”—Cyndi Lauper

“The trick is not caring what EVERYBODY thinks of you and just caring about what the RIGHT people think of you.”—Brian Michael Bendis

Don’t Feed The Trolls.

“There’s never a space under paintings in a gallery where someone writes their opinion,” says cartoonist Natalie Dee.

9. Sell Out.

Even The Renaissance Had to Be Funded.

“Sellout . . . I’m not crazy about that word. We’re all entrepreneurs. To me, I don’t care if you own a furniture store or whatever—the best sign you can put up is sold out.”—Bill Withers

Pass Around The Hat.

“I’d love to sell out completely. It’s just that nobody has been willing to buy.”—John Waters

Keep A Mailing List.

Make More Work For Yourself.

“We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.”—Walt Disney

“There is no misery in art. All art is about saying yes, and all art is about its own making.”—John Currin

Pay It Forward.

“The biggest problem of success is that the world conspires to stop you doing the thing that you do, because you are successful,” writes author Neil Gaiman.

“Above all, recognize that if you have had success, you have also had luck—and with luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to your gods. You owe a debt to the unlucky.”—Michael Lewis

10. Stick Around.

Don’t Quit Your Show

“If you want a happy ending,” actor Orson Welles wrote, “that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

“Work is never finished, only abandoned.”—Paul Valéry

Chain-Smoke.

“We work because it’s a chain reaction, each subject leads to the next.”—Charles Eames

Go Away So You Can Come Back.

“The minute you stop wanting something you get it.”—Andy Warhol

“Every two or three years, I knock off for a while. That way, I’m constantly the new girl in the whorehouse.”—Robert Mitchum

Begin Again.

“Whenever Picasso learned how to do something, he abandoned it.”—Milton Glaser