Austin Kleon, the three-time author of books like the new ¨Show Your Work¨ and ¨Steal Like an Artist¨ gave the opening keynote for SXSW Interactive this afternoon. He began his talk with mentioning that the New York Times interviewed him recently about whether or not South by Southwest has gotten too big for its own good.
Kleon stated that he didn’t believe this was necessarily so, but the big problem at SXSW is too types of people: Energy Vampires and Human Spam. He stressed the importance banning energy vampires from your life (that is, people that make you feel exhausted after spending time with them.
The second type, human spam, exist in every profession, according to Kleon. They want you to listen to their story but don’t want to stick around to listen to yours. These human spammers have been infected by the idea that the only way to promote yourself is to squirrel away glory and only talk about yourself. Kleon advises that this is not the best way to get to know others and create a network. Instead, SXSWers should focus on listening instead of talking.
The Concept of Scenius
Kleon states that we as a culture have bought into the lone genius myth–that you have to be miserable to be creative. He suggests instead focusing on scenius. Scenius is a communal form on genius– good ideas are birthed from a whole scene of creative thinkers.
¨SXSW is a big Scenius, but it will only work if we nurture it,” Kleon stated.
Let’s Create a New Movement
There are things we can all do to create a new scenius movement of group creativity and collaboration.
Don’t be a hoarder: When you come across great stuff, share it with others. The things that interest us are worth sharing because they attract with similar interests, benefitting everyone involved.
Credit is always due: Treat other’s work with trust and care. Kleon stated that attribution includes: what it is, who made it, when, why we should care, how you found it, and where we can find more things like it. With attribution, sharing is meaningless. You aren’t be fair to the creator or the audience, because the creator doesn’t get credit and the audience can’t find where to learn more.
Identify your fellow knuckleballers: Kleon talked about knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey, who said that knuckleballers talk about their pitch because they don’t have anything to hide, since even they don’t know the results. For people like you, don’t treat these people as competition, but as co-conspirators or collaborators.
Teach what you know: As soon as you learn something, teach and share it with others. Do work that connects people.
Stick around: You don’t what is going to happen next, so it’s important not to quit prematurely.
Kleon wrapped up his speech by mentioning that it’s very easy in this culture to get caught up chasing the next big thing. We are caught up in something we spent years off building that is then auctioned off to the highest bidder. We should be focused on creating something that lasts.
When it comes down to it, Kleon reminded the crowd, ¨Don’t be creepy. Be a human being,¨ and encouraged the crowd to show your own work, share the work that you love, and you’ll meet the people that you need to meet.
Photos taken by author.