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Book Review: Show Your Work!

What does software development mean to you? Is it an engineering discipline? It is called “Computer Science”, so is it a science? And what about the “software craftsmanship” movement? Or is it actually art?

Books by Austin Kleon

When I started my YouTube journey I was looking for good advice. I researched successful content creators who shared their journey and experience so that I could learn quickly. I was not after any quick tips, tricks or hacks. I wanted to learn the key fundamentals, the methods and techniques to provide quality content.

One day I came across “Show Your Work”. The title got me immediately, but I was not sure what I would find inside. In the process of buying a copy, I noticed that Austin Kleon also had published a bestseller before that one, (Steal Like an Artist), and one afterwards: Keep Going. Having a habit of always buying more books than I am actually able to read, I decided to buy all three immediately, read those in order and in a row.

I really enjoyed reading these three books. I don’t remember I ever read a book of an artist about art - well, long back I did read “The Design Of Everyday Things” but I think this does not count. I learned about new perspectives, different ways of looking at things, but I also found ideas in these books I could closely relate to.

During reading I did not only reflected on content creation but also on software development as such. I reflected on decisions I took, routines I have and things I do and how I do them.

And why do I tell all this?

I think every developer should “steal like an artist” - which is NOT about copy & pasting code from Stackoverflow, as you will learn in the first part of the first book - but I also believe everyone of us should also give something back to the community so that others can steal from us. Show your work! Share your projects on GitHub, write a blog or publish some YouTube videos. It is not only about “giving”, it is also about receiving more at the same time, due to feedback but also by the process of “teaching” which requires often an even deeper understanding of a topic.

So here are some of my takeaways from these books:

  • Don’t wait publishing content until you have some truly unique content - nothing is truly original. Let yourself be inspired by others and then focus on what you like.
  • Keep your mind open, observe your environment and collect content pieces and ideas everywhere you go.
  • “Think process, not product”. Enjoy the process and share it with others - “show your work”!
  • “If you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader first.” “If you want followers, be somebody worth following.”
  • “Don’t quit your show” if you are not getting the success you were hoping. Keep going. Take the end of something to kick of the next idea.
  • Free up your mind from daily distraction. Put your smartphone - and yourself - into “airplane mode”, sometimes or maybe even more often.
  • “Forget the noun, do the verb”. Think less about being a software developer - focus on actually developing software which most of the time means: write some code!
  • “Tidying is exploring” - although meant differently by the author, I am trying to reflect what that means with respect to source code …
  • Creativity cannot be “enforced” - Take a break. Take a walk. Exercise.

“Worry less about getting things done. Worry more about things worth doing!”

Tags: book