Show Your Work Book Review (Workman Publishing Company, 2014)

Austin Kleon has two great books you should pick up:

These are empowering books for writers and educators alike. They are so beautiful, though, you'll want to buy the print version. I particularly love Show Your Work! for two reasons:

  1. Kleon shows that sharing your work should be part of what you do every single day.
  2. Many of us are paralyzed by perfectionism. We don't want to “show” our work because our work isn't perfect.

Kleon convincingly shows how showing your work is part of a journey to better work. By sharing and showing, you get feedback. By getting feedback, you get better. When you get better and share more, you get more feedback. Thus, showing your work and learning from others as you do is the path to awesome. He puts into words what many of us who blog and share feel about our own journey. As I blog, I believe I learn far more than I share. The more I share, the more I learn. Crazy, isn't it? Not convinced — buy the book.

Be an Excellentist not a Perfectionist

Since reading his book I”ve committed to shun my desire to be perfect. I am now a self-proclaimed excellentist not a perfectionist.

Perfect is a lie. Excellence holds true. Perfection implies everyone has to love you. Perfectionism — for us mere humans — is unattainable.

Excellence is a commitment to do your best and to achieve a high standard of excellence in your field. I aspire to be that.

The term excellentist is one I coined as I was talking to two of my students who struggle with perfectionism.I had these two students wouldn't hand in a project because it wasn't perfect yet. Seth Godin talks about this also when he says to “ship it.” (Someone else may say this word too, if they do, I don't know it but it is a good term, so hey, I'm that.) 

Perfectionism is a problem that keeps us from being creative. It can limit your life and your ability to thrive. Excellentism is a much more worthy habit as long as it is something worthy of being excellent in. I am happy to satisfice and pick any old pen to write with, however, I want posts on this blog to be excellent.

Shun the Vampires

He also talks about shunning the vampires in your life — those people who suck all the creativity and joy out of you. He uses the example of how sculptor Constantin Brancusi wouldn't tolerate the life-sucking habits of Pablo Picasso. Before the years of Facebook, he “defriended” Picasso. Quite literally in real life.

A chapter title from Steal like an artist, Austin Kleon's first book.

A chapter title from Steal like an artist, Austin Kleon's first book.

Sometimes the teacher's lounge is a hangout for vampires. If so, don't go there. Run away!

Great Graphics and a Simple Read

The other thing I love about both of Austin Kleon's book is the graphic appeal of it. He uses graphics, text, and even poetry in ways that are appealing. I have both of his books on my coffee table and read them when I need to be inspired to keep going and sharing.

Who Will Like This Book?

  • Teachers and educators who advocate helping students publish their work.
  • People who want to use social media but don't get the point of why they should share.
  • Perfectionists and creatives of all kinds will love these books.

My favorite of the two is Show Your Work! but that is kind of like saying whether I like chocolate ice cream or Moose Tracks — both are pretty doggone good.

Comments (4) | | Posted in Books
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4 thoughts on “Show Your Work Book Review

  1. These books sound excellent, dare I say perfect for adding to my reading list and bookshelf. Thank you so much for letting me know about them. I love the words ‘excellentist’ and ‘satisfice’. They are now added to my vocabulary. 🙂

    • Enjoy then Norah and let me know what you think!

      Vicki Davis
      @coolcatteacher Blog
      Host – Every Classroom Matters Show
      Author – Reinventing Writing

      *** Sent via mobile device. Please forgive my typos. ***

  2. I am currently a student in a teacher education program at the University of Michigan. My classmates and I had the pleasure of video conferencing with you a couple weeks back because I am in the AIC class which you and your students are apart of. I wanted to thank you again for taking the time to chat with us. You are an inspiring educator, and after our discussion I was eager to check out your work.

    This post stuck out to me because I loved the message about sharing your work as a teacher because it will lead to feedback which will then lead to improvement in our practice. I think this is a great message for teachers, and I hope to check out one of these books to learn more.

    I also think this message is a great one for students as well. Since I am in the AIC class, I have first-hand experience with providing students feedback and seeing their improvement. There is nothing more satisfying to me as a future educator when students take my advice and improve their work. That learning and growth is a huge reason why I am an educator.

    As my journey as a teacher begins, I will always look for opportunities to share my work and receive feedback on my craft as well as provide students with opportunities to improve their work and show their growth. Hopefully many of my students, as well as myself, will all become excellentists rather than perfectionists!

    • Awesome, Jeremy. Hats off for your amazing work on AIC. I was just in Phoenix talking about what an amazing joy you all and Dr. Stanzler do with this! And yes, showing your work is important. My friend Kevin Honeycutt said the greatest quote the other day “Perfect is the enemy of done.” I think many educators don’t share because they want it to be perfect. Perfect is a lie.

      Thanks for showing your work by sharing such a thoughtful post and response to this. Do you have your own blog? I think you should! Thanks for dropping by and I”m sure I’ll connect with you all again very soon!

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      *Vicki A. Davis @coolcatteacher * Author, *Reinventing Writing *(2014) and *Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds*
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