In my early days as a writer, publishing anything with my name on it was the biggest challenge I faced. Self-doubt and lack-of-faith in my own creativity were limiting my growth.
I couldn’t understand why I was underestimating myself so much. This was not the case when I was in school.
In school and later in college, I would write an assignment and submit it for appraisal without any qualms. My writing skills were rudimentary then, yet I never underestimated myself.
When I chose writing as a hobby and started writing articles and stories I was too scared to share anything even though my skills as a writer improved a lot since the college days. The more I wrote, the more I got scared of sharing my work.
The answer lies in expectations.
In school, I had nil expectations from myself. As a middle-aged writer, I want to write like a professional.
My skills might have improved but so are my expectations.
When I understood that, there was no other way for me other than face my fears head-on.
I started a blog and began putting my work out there. Even though no one was reading it, but the act of ‘publishing’ my work did wonders for my confidence.
Here are the five benefits of showing your work.
1. Showing makes you accountable
When you are regularly showing your work, whether, through a blog or through writing groups, it keeps you accountable. We all are guilty of breaking promises to ourselves, but we do whatever we can in our power to keep the promise we make to others. This year I have promised my readers that I will put out two posts every week. Now I plan my posts in advance and schedule them for the days I know I am traveling or busy with other activities. Similarly, I have never missed a submission to my writer’s groups.
When you show your work regularly you keep track of how far you have come and where you’re headed. The accountability forces you to do the work you should be doing.
2. Showing helps you improve
It is very easy to get slack when no one is watching. Your diary writing can get sloppy but the piece you are submitting for critique or the post you are writing for your blog has to be your best effort. You are bound to get better and you are bound to improve.
When I was newly married I didn’t know how to cook. I learned cooking following recipes from books and got better at it by receiving praise from family and friends.
Think of your writing as cooking. If you cook something you will not stash it in the fridge or throw it in the bin. You will share it with your family and friends. Often they will praise you which will inspire you to cook frequently try different recipes. And if they make suggestions for improvement you will make sure to incorporate it next time you make that dish.
The same goes for writing. Keeping your diary or stories in the bottom drawer is akin to keeping your cooking in the fridge. Incorporate feedback from readers and writing groups help improve your writing just like it improves your cooking.
3. Showing inspires you to do more
Your portfolio grows one piece at a time.
One poem, two poems… three poems…ten poems.
One story, two stories… five stories… twenty stories.
One article, two articles… ten articles… one hundred articles.
When you see it growing, suddenly you start seeing your own potential. Your faith start building and you want to create more. Quality doesn’t matter in the initial stage but quantity certainly does.
Whether you’re a poet, fiction or non-fiction writer, it’s time to stop worrying and start sharing.
4. Showing help develop an ongoing connection with your readers
Writing in isolation is limiting. As soon as someone starts reading your work and provides you some feedback you develop a connection with your reader.
When I started blogging, for months, nobody was reading my posts. Then one day I received a comment from my gym buddy who was also blogging, I was over the moon. Soon we started commenting on each other’s posts. That simple act created a valuable feedback loop.
You can also share your process of writing – what are you learning, what are you experimenting with, your challenges and how you are overcoming them.
By sharing your process you reap the benefits of self-promotion without icky feelings. People are often just as interested in how you work as much as the work itself. By sharing your process, you invite people to not only get to know your work, but get to know you — and that can lead to new readers, new projects, and all sorts of other opportunities.
5. Your work is your resume
If you want to be a professional writer, you got to have a resume. Austin Kleon suggests a different kind of resume in his book Show Your Work:
Imagine if your next boss didn’t have to read your resume because he already reads your blog.
Imagine being a student and getting your first gig based on a school project you posted online.
Imagine losing your job but having a social network of people familiar with your work and ready to help you find a new one.
Imagine turning a side project or hobby into your profession because you had a following that could support you OR
Imagine something simpler and just as satisfying: spending the majority of your time, energy, and attention practicing a craft, learning a trade, or running a business, while also allowing for the possibility that your work might attract a group of people who share your interests.
Blogging is a great way for writers to show their work and improve as a result.
Since watching my own improvements I have become an advocate of blogging for writers.
Blogging allows you to write for others which forces you to polish your work as you go. I never edited my diary pages nor I rewrote journal entries, but I faithfully edit my posts multiple times. The fact is that I spend more time editing my posts than writing them. As we all know the mantra of writing is – ‘rewriting.’
Blogging also makes you get used to writing to deadlines, build a readership, experiment with different types of writing and get feedback.
But if blogging is not what you want to do, then there are other ways of showing your work. Writer groups provide a safe, friendly and encouraging environment to share and receive feedback. Online writing forums, social media and writing under a pen name are other ways to share your work.