Yesterday’s blog post started as a long caption on Instagram, under a photo of my writing tools. I was sharing my stoke over starting a new novel–in the only way I can since I won’t say what it’s about until I have a draft–but I was also answering a prompt from Austin Kleon’s handy little book, Show Your Work! In this guide to putting your stuff out in the world, Kleon dispenses powerful and simple advice like “share something small every day.”
Yesterday, I was doing just that—as I am in with this post. Both days I felt like I had nothing to say, and I’m sure I’ll have to slay that dragon again tomorrow. What got me writing was letting go of the need to create from scratch, opting instead to document what’s right in front of me.
In the third day of writing a novel, I don’t have any creative writing that’s ready to share. But I can talk about my process, my tools, my creeping insecurities, and the books on my nightstand—including the one that inspired me to write this post in the first place.
Kleon offers specific advice on how to do this:
“Once a day, after you’ve done your days work, go back to your documentation and find one little piece of your process that you can share. Where you are in your process will determine what the piece is. If you’re in the very early stages, share your influences and what’s inspiring you. If you’re in the middle of executing a project, write about your methods or share works in progress. If you’ve just completed a project, show the final product, share scraps from the cutting room floor, or write about what you learned. If you have lots of projects out in the world, you can report on how they’re doing—you can tell stories about how people are interacting with your work.” (Kleon, 48.)
He also shares a graphic outlining what to share and what not to share:
And that’s the problem: I sort of conflated sharing with oversharing, as if showing friends and followers where I work is the same thing as a selfie-reel or pictures of my lunch.
At first glance, that attitude might seem profound, like a humble stand against the self importance and the vapidity of social media. But really, it’s just control freakery in disguise. Part of sharing one’s stuff is letting it go. I don’t dictate the terms of how others experience my work. I don’t get to micro-mange their response. And that’s a good thing, because the response to my post was better than anything I could have arranged for myself:
I connected with some new writers, who must have found me through the hashtags.
A buddy of mine asked to be a character in the novel—he doesn’t know he already is.
One friend noticed the crime writing hashtags and asked me all about that genre—something she didn’t know I was into. And she, in turn, told me about fantasy writing and world-building, something I didn’t know she was working on.
Another friend, who I haven’t talked to in a while shared what he learned about long projects from his marathon training. We ended up talking about his next race. (What up, Pete!)
None of this would have happened if I hadn’t gotten over myself and put my scrap of the day out into the world.