Want to Get More Work Done? Then Show it Early and Often

There are many techniques that will help you boost your writing output, but one of the best is to show your work early and often:

  • Show drafts.
  • Show chunks (paragraphs and pages).
  • And even show individual sentences and clauses. (“Hey, what do you think of this metaphor…” Or, “Super proud of how I framed this…”)

Show them to: colleagues, bosses, and subordinates. Also, critique buddies, workshoppers, editors, and agents. Also, friends and family members who get what you’re doing. And, of course, your audience.

cathidingbehindwallPerfectionist writers are terrified of having their work seen and judged, so they keep it private–and, in doing so, create a “wall” between themselves and potential readers and critics.

They hide behind that wall, endlessly writing and revising, but never finishing or submitting or publishing. (Sometimes they don’t write at all, since that’s an even better technique for remaining unseen and unjudged!)

The problem is: the more a writer hides, the more terrifying showing his work becomes, until the wall becomes enormous and insurmountable.

In contrast, showing early and often helps “perforate” and eventually eliminate the wall.

And that tends to speed the entire writing process, from conceptualization and drafting through to revising, submitting, and publishing. You become bolder and more resilient–a.k.a., less perfectionist–and you also get catalyzing feedback and support.

This technique is, of course, congruent with 21st century marketing via social media. We’re long past the days when writers sequestered their work until it was fully polished and edited. These days, readers want to share your process via social media, and maybe even be included in it.

So, show your work early and often.

Just be careful whom you show it to, however, because there’s no point in exposing yourself to callous or clueless feedback.

Maybe no social media at first, until you get more resilient. And extra points for telling your “showees” what response you want: e.g.,

  • “I know this is a draft so I don’t want detailed feedback on grammar and syntax. But let me know if the general idea works for you.” Or,
  • “I really dig this metaphor I came up with!!! Just wanted to share it with you; no reply needed.” Or,
  • “I’m really having trouble with this passage – any ideas?”

Eventually, you’ll probably come to enjoy showing your work, and you’ll probably also be able to write faster than you ever thought possible.

– Adapted from an article originally published on How to Write Fast

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