“Find your voice, shout it from the rooftops, and keep doing it until the people that are looking for you find you.”
-- Dan Harmon
It’s hardwired, built into you. Talk about the things you love. Your voice will follow.
Ebert was blogging because he had to blog—because it was a matter of being heard, or not being heard. A matter of existing or not existing.
It sounds a little extreme, but in this day and age, if your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.
We all have the opportunity to use our voices, to have our say, but so many of us are wasting it. If you want people to know about what you do and the things you care about, you have to share.
“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
When George Lucas was a teenager, he almost died in a car accident. He decided “every day now is an extra day,”
Wayne Coyne: “I realized I was going to die,” he says. it utterly changed me . . . I thought, I’m not going to sit here and wait for things to happen, I’m going to make them happen, and if people think I’m an idiot I don’t care.”
Tim Kreider, in his book We Learn Nothing, says that getting stabbed in the throat was the best thing to ever happen to him.
George Saunders, speaking of his own near-death experience, said, “For three or four days after that, it was the most beautiful world.
if you could walk around like that all the time, to really have that awareness that it’s actually going to end. That’s the trick.”
Reading the obituaries is like near-death experiences for cowards.
Reading about people who are dead now and did things with their lives makes me want to get up and do something decent with mine.
Thinking about death every morning makes me want to live.
Try it: Start reading the obituaries every morning. Take inspiration from the people who muddled through life before you—they all started out as amateurs, and they got where they were going by making do with what they were given, and having the guts to put themselves out there. Follow their example.
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
An artist is supposed to toil in secrecy, keeping her ideas and her work under lock and key, waiting until she has a magnificent product to show for herself before she tries to connect with an audience.
“The private details of artmaking are utterly uninteresting to audiences”
But today, by taking advantage of the Internet and social media, an artist can share whatever she wants, whenever she wants, at almost no cost.
By sharing her day-to-day process—the thing she really cares about—she can form a unique bond with her audience.
By letting go of our egos and sharing our process, we allow for the possibility of people having an ongoing connection with us and our work.
Become a documentarian of what you do
“In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen—really seen.”
-- René Brown
We’re not all artists or astronauts. A lot of us go about our work and feel like we have nothing to show for it at the end of the day. But 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.
How can you show your work even when you have nothing to show?
You have to turn the invisible into something other people can see.
“You have to make stuff. No one is going to give a damn about your résumé; they want to see what you have made with your own little fingers.”
Start a work journal: Write your thoughts down in a notebook.
Keep a scrapbook. Take a lot of photographs of your work at different stages in your process.
Shoot video of you working.
Take advantage of all the cheap, easy tools at your disposal.
Whether you share it or not, documenting and recording your process as you go along has its own rewards: You’ll start to see the work you’re doing more clearly and feel like you’re making progress.
And when you’re ready to share, you’ll have a surplus of material to choose from.
3. Share something small every day
Send out a daily dispatch
“Put yourself, and your work, out there every day, and you’ll start meeting some amazing people.”
-- Bobby Solomon
Overnight success is a myth.
Focus on days. The day is the only unit of time that works for me. day has a rhythm. The sun goes up; the sun goes down.
Once a day, after you’ve done your day’s work, go back to your documentation and find one little piece of your process that you can share.
- share your influences and what’s inspiring you.
- write about your methods or share works in progress.
- show the final product.
- write about what you learned.
- you can tell stories about how people are interacting with your work.
Your daily dispatch can be anything you want—a blog post, an email, a tweet, a YouTube video, or some other little bit of media.
Social media sites are the perfect place to share daily updates.
Filmmakers hang out on YouTube or Vimeo. Businesspeople, for some strange reason, love LinkedIn. Writers love Twitter. Visual artists tend to like Tumblr, Instagram, or Facebook.
jump on a new platform and see if there’s something interesting you can do with it.
A lot of social media is just about typing into boxes.
Facebook: “How are you feeling?”, “What’s on your mind?”
Twitter: “What’s happening?”
Dribble.com: “What are you working on?”
Don’t show your lunch or your latte; show your work.
Don’t worry about everything you post being perfect. Science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon once said that 90 percent of everything is crap.
The same is true of our own work. The trouble is, we don’t always know what’s good and what sucks. That’s why it’s important to get things in front of others and see how they react.
“It really does need a little social chemistry to make it show itself to you sometimes.”
Don’t say you don’t have enough time. We’re all busy, but we all get 24 hours a day.
You find time if you look for it.
I like to work while the world is sleeping, and share while the world is at work.
“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
The "So what?" test
Always remember that anything you post to the Internet has now become public.
“The Internet is a copy machine. Once anything that can be copied is brought into contact with the Internet, it will be copied, and those copies never leave.”
-- Kevin Kelly
don’t post things online that you’re not ready for everyone in the world to see.
“Post as though everyone who can read it has the power to fire you.”
-- Lauren Cerand
There’s a big, big difference between sharing and over-sharing.
The act of sharing is one of generosity—you’re putting something out there because you think it might be helpful or entertaining to someone on the other side of the screen.
“Is this helpful? Is it entertaining? Is it something I’d be comfortable with my boss or my mother seeing?”
Turn your flow into stock
Social media sites function a lot like public notebooks—they’re places where we think out loud, let other people think back at us, then hopefully think some more.
But the thing about keeping notebooks is that you have to revisit them in order to make the most out of them.
Once you make sharing part of your daily routine, you’ll notice themes and trends emerging in what you share.
When you detect these patterns, you can start gathering these bits and pieces and turn them into something bigger and more substantial.
You can turn your flow into stock.
For example, a lot of the ideas in this book started out as tweets, which then became blog posts, which then became book chapters. 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
Social networks are great, but they come and go. If you’re really interested in sharing your work and expressing yourself, nothing beats owning your own space online.
A blog is the ideal machine for turning flow into stock: One little blog post is nothing on its own, but publish a thousand blog posts over a decade, and it turns into your life’s work.
Absolutely everything good that has happened in my career can be traced back to my blog. My books, my art shows, my speaking gigs, some of my best friendships—they all exist because I have my own little piece of turf on the Internet.
So, if you get one thing out of this book make it this: Go register a domain name.
Don’t think of your website as a self-promotion machine, think of it as a self-invention machine.
Online, you can become the person you really want to be.
Fill your website with your work and your ideas and the stuff you care about.
Think about it in the long term.
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
We all have our own treasured collections. They can be physical cabinets of curiosities, say, living room bookshelves full of our favorite novels, records, and movies, or they can be more like intangible museums of the heart, our skulls lined with memories of places we’ve been, people we’ve met, experiences we’ve accumulated.
We all carry around the weird and wonderful things we’ve come across while doing our work and living our lives. These mental scrapbooks form our tastes, and our tastes influence our work.
The reading feeds the writing, which feeds the reading.
“Making books has always felt very connected to my bookselling experience, that of wanting to draw people’s attention to things that I liked, to shape things that I liked into new shapes.”
-- Jonathan Lethem
Our tastes make us what we are.
“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer.”
-- Ira Glass
Before we’re ready to take the leap of sharing our own work with the world, we can share our tastes in the work of others.
Where do you get your inspiration? What sorts of things do you fill your head with? What do you read? Do you subscribe to anything? What sites do you visit on the Internet? What music do you listen to? What movies do you see? Do you look at art? What do you collect? What’s inside your scrapbook? What do you pin to the corkboard above your desk? What do you stick on your refrigerator? Who’s done work that you admire? Who do you steal ideas from? Do you have any heroes? Who do you follow online? Who are the practitioners you look up to in your field?
Your influences are all worth sharing because they clue people in to who you are and what you do—sometimes even more than your own work.
“You’re only as good as your record collection.”
-- DJ Spooky
No guilty pleasure
“I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you f---ing like something, like it.”
-- Dave Grohl
“Dumpster diving” is one of the jobs of the artist—finding the treasure in other people’s trash, sifting through the debris of our culture, paying attention to the stuff that everyone else is ignoring, and taking inspiration from the stuff that people have tossed aside for whatever reasons.
“On Experience,” wrote, “In my opinion, the most ordinary things, the most common and familiar, if we could see them in their true light, would turn out to be the grandest miracles . . . and the most marvelous examples.”
-- Michel de Montaigne
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.
We all love things that other people think are garbage.
what makes us unique is the diversity and breadth of our influences, the unique ways in which we mix up the parts of culture.
When you find things you genuinely enjoy, don’t let anyone else make you feel bad about it.
When you share your taste and your influences, have the guts to own all of it.
Don’t give in to the pressure to self-edit too much.
Being open and honest about what you like is the best way to connect with people who like those things, too.
“Do what you do best and link to the rest.”
-- Jeff Jarvis
Credit is always due
Crediting work in our copy-and-paste age of reblogs and retweets can seem like a futile effort, but it’s worth it, and it’s the right thing to do.
You should always share the work of others as if it were your own, treating it with respect and care.
who made it, how they made it, when and where it was made, why you’re sharing it, why people should care about it, and where people can see some more work like it.
5. Tell good stories
Work doesn't speak for itself
“You might think that the pleasure you get from a painting depends on its color and its shape and its pattern, And if that’s right, it shouldn’t matter whether it’s an original or a forgery. But our brains don’t work that way. When shown an object, or given a food, or shown a face, people’s assessment of it—how much they like it, how valuable it is—is deeply affected by what you tell them about it.”
-- Paul Bloom
In their book, Significant Objects, Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker recount an experiment. bought a bunch of “insignificant” objects for an average of $1.25. Then, they hired a bunch of writers to invent a story “that attributed significance” to each object. On eBay, By the end of the experiment, they had sold $128.74 worth of trinkets for $3,612.51.
Artists love to trot out the tired line, “My work speaks for itself,” but the truth is, our work doesn’t speak for itself. Human beings want to know where things came from, how they were made, and who made them. 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.
"humans want to connect. Personal stories can make the complex more tangible, spark associations, and offer entry into things that might otherwise leave one cold."
-- Rachel Sussman
Whether you realize it or not, you’re already telling a story about your work.
Every email you send, every text, every conversation, every blog comment, every tweet, every photo, every video—they’re all bits and pieces of a multimedia narrative you’re constantly constructing.
become a better storyteller. You need to know what a good story is and how to tell one.
“‘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
“Once upon a time, there was . Every day, . One day, . Because of that, . Because of that, . Until finally, .”
Pick your favorite story; It’s striking how often it works.
“A character wants something, goes after it despite opposition (perhaps including his own doubts), and so arrives at a win, lose, or draw.”
-- John Gardner
Likewise, You get a great idea, you go through the hard work of executing the idea, and then you release the idea out into the world, coming to a win, lose, or draw.
Sometimes the idea succeeds, sometimes it fails, and more often than not, it does nothing at all.
Every client presentation, every personal essay, every cover letter, every fund-raising request—they’re all pitches. They’re stories with the endings chopped off.
A good pitch is set up in three acts: The first act is the past, the second act is the present, and the third act is the future.
The first act is where you’ve been—what you want, how you came to want it, and what you’ve done so far to get it. The second act is where you are now in your work and how you’ve worked hard and used up most of your resources. The third act is where you’re going, and how exactly the person you’re pitching can help you get there.
Always keep your audience in mind.
Value their time. Be brief. Learn to speak. Learn to write.
Everybody loves a good story, but good storytelling doesn’t come easy to everybody. It’s a skill that takes a lifetime to master. So study the great stories and then go find some of your own. Your stories will get better the more you tell them.
Talk about yourself at parties
“You got to make your case.”
-- Kanye West
We’ve all been there. You’re standing at a party, enjoying your drink, when a stranger approaches, introduces herself, and asks the dreaded question, “So, what do you do?”
If you happen to be a doctor or a teacher or a lawyer or a plumber, congratulations. You may proceed without caution. For the rest of us, we’re going to need to practice our answers.
Artists have it the worst. If you answer, “I’m a writer,” for example, there’s a very good chance that the next question will be, “Oh, have you published anything?” which is actually a veiled way of asking, “Do you make any money off that?”
The way to get over the awkwardness in these situations is to stop treating them as interrogations, and start treating them as opportunities to connect with somebody by honestly and humbly explaining what it is that you do. You should be able to explain your work to a kindergartner, a senior citizen, and everybody in between.
If you’re unemployed, say so, and mention what kind of work you’re looking for.
If you’re employed, but you don’t feel good about your job title, ask yourself why that is.
“Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful.”
-- George Orwell
Have empathy for your audience. Anticipate blank stares. Be ready for more questions.
All the same principles apply when you start writing your bio. Bios are not the place to practice your creativity. We all like to think we’re more complex than a two-sentence explanation, but a two-sentence explanation is usually what the world wants from us. Keep it short and sweet.
Just state the facts.
“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
barbecue is actually very simple, but it takes years and years to master.
Aaron told me that he trains all his employees the same way, but when he cuts into a brisket, he can tell you exactly who did the smoking.
Just because you know the master’s technique doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to emulate it right away.
You can watch Franklin’s tutorials over and over, but are you ready to start spending 22 hours a day smoking meat that will sell out in two hours? Probably not. If you’re me, you’ll pay the $13 a pound even more gladly.
The Franklins also just genuinely love barbecue. they started out as beginners, and so they feel an obligation to pass on what they’ve learned.
In their book, Rework, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson encourage businesses to emulate chefs by out-teaching their competition. “What do you do? What are your ‘recipes’? What’s your ‘cookbook’? What can you tell the world about how you operate that’s informative, educational, and promotional?” They encourage businesses to figure out the equivalent of their own cooking show.
Think about what you can share from your process that would inform the people you’re trying to reach. Have you learned a craft? What are your techniques? Are you skilled at using certain tools and materials? What kind of knowledge comes along with your job?
The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to others. Share your reading list. Point to helpful reference materials. Create some tutorials and post them online. Use pictures, words, and video.
“Make people better at something they want to be better at.”
-- Kathy Sierra
Teaching people doesn’t subtract value from what you do, it actually adds to it. When you teach someone how to do your work, you are, in effect, generating more interest in your work. People feel closer to your work because you’re letting them in on what you know.
Best of all, when you share your knowledge and your work with others, you receive an education in return.
Author Christopher Hitchens said that the great thing about putting out a book is that “it brings you into contact with people whose opinions you should have canvassed before you ever pressed pen to paper. They write to you. They telephone you. and give you things to read that you should have read already.” He said that having his work out in the world was “a free education that goes on for a lifetime.”