"Show your work!" by Austin Kleon, is the reason I finally decided to start a blog.
I've been saying for more than twenty years "I'm going to make a website". I remember the first time I thought about doing that was back in 1996. I didn't know why I wanted a website I just knew that I wanted one. Twenty-five years after discussing it with my friends after playing Diablo all night I finally have done it and it is thanks to this book.
But I never really understood why anyone would bother to blog - honestly, it seemed pretty pretentious - who the hell am I? I don't have any expertise that is worth sharing with the world. But Austin does a masterful job of explaining why I should bother blogging. As he put it the purpose of blogging or sharing your "works in progress" is simple - "the best way to get started on sharing your work is to think about what you want to learn and a make a commitment to learning it in front of others".
There is an unbelievable amount of value in sharing your progress on projects that you are interested in. You don't need to be an expert. You don't need to have incredibly polished work before you can share it. Just share what you are doing and it will be of value to some people on the planet. That value can carry tremendous benefits for everyone. Besides keeping friends and family apprised of your life you are creating a kind of continually updating resume that anyone can explore. "fellowship, feedback and patronage" is how Austin put it.
The reason this book resonated with me so strongly was that I have kind of been sharing my work with people sporadically. I have enjoyed writing book reviews on Facebook. I have been sharing sketching that I have been doing with my son. I have shared lots of personal projects over the years. I never did it with the intent of getting extracting some value (at least not consciously) but I did find that just the idea that I would share my work with people provided a kind of motivation to continue the work.
Lots of personal projects fall to the wayside because we rarely have enough intrinsic motivation to get past the obstacles that will inevitably occur when we get stuck. If you aren't a good enough writer when you're attempting to write your first novel then what keeps you going when you hit writers' block? My guess is that 99% of would-be writers simply "take a break" from their writing. That "break" turns into a "hiatus" which eventually turns back into a "dream".
But maybe those would be books might continue if people could share a chapter at a time with people. Maybe the act of writing and sharing a chapter at a time might be the motivation needed to keep going.
I guess my hope is that starting a blog and maintaining it will help me with pushing myself when my natural impulse is to just stop and fart around.
I can imagine that there are negatives to sharing your work.
The potential for criticism comes to mind; my work is going to be mediocre at best. But as Charlie Chaplin put it "That's all any of us are: amateurs. We don't live long enough to be anything else".
So if I can accept that I am going to present mediocre work to people who think highly enough of me to help me get better then I guess it will be worth it.
I could see how blogging might get in the way of doing the actual work you should be doing. George RR Martin comes to mind; Winds of Winter was supposed to come out about ten years ago. I can't imagine how incredibly hard it must be to write an epic saga of that caliber but it is no doubt much easier to update his blog.
But that is honestly a luxury problem. My problem is that I get interested in things for a while and then just drop them when the next shiny object comes my way. But given that I know that about myself maybe the prospect of sharing things here might keep me engaged in the work that I want to cultivate and develop more deeply.
So I will give that a shot - I will post my thoughts and projects here weekly. If people comment then wonderful. If not, no worries I will still write here. At the very least I will be giving myself a weekly deadline to get something done. There are so many damn things I want to learn and improve upon; sketching, writing, dancing, calisthenics, data science and visualizations, teaching, programming, learning American history... rather than just saying I'm going to do it I will do it and share what I get out of these amateur explorations.
Thank you Austin Kleon for this book and for sharing your ideas - I highly recommend this book for anyone who is looking to accomplish more. I think Austin nailed it. This is a book that I am sure I will return to whenever I feel stuck. It's one of those books that is such a quick reading and such a simple premise but if you take the message to heart it can potentially be a real game-changer. I have no doubt that if I stick to writing weekly about my progress on the many projects I am engaged in that this will help me immensely. I can't recommend this book highly enough!