I’m reading a book called Show Your Work by Austin Kleon.
The clever little book is written for writers or artists of any kind—those of us who are trying to make a living off our creativity and hard work (and momentary flashes of brilliance). The guy who wrote it is a rich writer. His book Steal Like an Artist made him a ton of money, as I imagine this book will too.
Probably sensing my impending cynical response, he points out from the start that all writers are by nature jealous creatures. We take other people’s success personally. I’ve decided that instead of being jealous I will copy this guy, or at least try out his ideas.
I once had a professor who told me that copying is the sincerest form of flattery. So Austin should take my efforts in that vein. (and judging by the title of his first book, he wants me to copy him, so I’m playing right into his hand)
Today’s reading had a challenge. Kleon (I like that last name) urged us to show our work every day by posting or tweeting or instagramming (what would you call that?) a piece of our work.
As an old person motivated artist who has no idea how to get rich from her work, this is the kind of direction I need.
So, beginning today I’m going to attempt to ‘show my work’ every (work) day for the next month leading up to the release of my next book (100 Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues) on July 7.
Kleon has a cute illustration (he actually has a lot of cute illustrations) that shows how doing something every day to further your career will add up:
One day: X
One week: XXXXXXX
One month: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Okay, his illustration was much cuter because the X’s were in piles and they look more substantial. The point is, that we can all do something every day. And all those somethings will add up.
So if you are working towards a goal, feel free to copy me, and maybe we can urge each other to create our giant pile of X’s.
I can’t promise I’ll have anything helpful or inspiring or even interesting to say, but I’m gonna say it here on this blog. And because I am going to just spit it out at the end of the day while my family is wondering if I’m ever going to get up and make dinner, it might not be typo-free or grammatically perfect. I apologize in advance.
[And just so you know, you can unfollow this blog and I’ll never know (WordPress is good like that—they don’t tattle).]
So today’s work:
I worked on an essay I’d roughed out a month or so ago about what I call the ‘rescue genre’ of memoir/creative nonfiction. I don’t know that anyone (besides me) recognizes it as a genre, but lately, I’ve been writing and reading books about dog rescue and rescued dogs. The essay is taking shape. I sent it to my editor at Pegasus to see if she thinks it could be pitched anywhere.
I wrote a post for Another Good Dog about our decision not to foster fail with our current foster dog, Tito. This didn’t necessarily move my career forward, unless you count the fact that I won’t be distracted with the training of a new dog. It did give me a chance to write something, though, and writing something every day is how you get better at this. Here’s a picture of Tito (you can understand why we were tempted):
I continued to stalk Bookstagrammers on Instagram and chose five who seemed dog-friendly. I messaged them offering an egalley of the new book in the hopes of getting a review. One replied immediately yes (and she’s currently moving houses, so that’s a BIG yes) so I sent her the link for the egalley.
I investigated what it would cost to design and print ‘trading cards’ of some of the dogs mentioned in the new book as swag to give away if I ever get to do a book signing. Sigh. It’s not cheap, but it might be fun to do.
Technically that’s four X’s, but I’ve always been an overachiever like that.
That was my day. How was yours? Have any work you can show me?
Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.
If you’re curious about what I’m up to, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.
If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.
And If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog. And if you want to know what is really happening in the animal shelters in this county, visit, Who Will Let the Dogs Out.
I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COMING JULY 2020 from Pegasus books (available for preorder):
4 thoughts on “Show Your Work”
I just compiled most of the short stories I’ve written on my blog into a book. And, in the book, I’ve read them. Move over Raymond Carver. Seriously. As stupid as I initially thought writing daily to a prompt was (I did) without that small discipline I wouldn’t have written all those good short stories — most of which are under 1000 words, a lot different from novels. I think it’s important to keep working at whatever all the time, especially right now.
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Day by day, it adds up. The mountain isn’t so big one step at a time, but sometimes it helps to be reminded of that. I am anxious about this little challenge I’ve set for myself simply because I don’t have the time to make each post ‘neat’ and grammatically clean, but I do think it will force me to step up my game a bit and be purposeful about my days (which can get fuzzy when they are spent promoting and not writing). Your blogging discipline is inspiring to me.
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I started when I was still teaching a LOT. That stupid prompt that I didn’t think much of turned into the ONE thing I could count on everyday that meant something to me. I started getting up at 4:30 so I would have the chance to write it before heading out for a 7:30 class. It isn’t discipline. ❤
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