When is the right time to share work? I’ve struggled with this concept in the past, both as a designer and writer. Many blog posts and books have probably been written about this, I am sure. But nothing has resonated with me until I began asking myself: how present am I?
I’ve found the more work I show, the more present I feel. It’s like telling my small tribe of makers: “hey — I’m here!” And then following up with: “And where are you?” so that perhaps, just maybe, they can find me among the billions that are on this Internet-thing.
So here’s my little list of advice for how I’ve started to get the courage to be present and share my work. It may be helpful to you.
1. Stick to a schedule
Clicking ‘Share’ consistently makes you get used to getting out there and being present. Even if it’s not perfect, showing your work often can make you less sensitive to criticism and more importantly, allow others to get to know you and your craft.
How are others supposed to get to know you and your work if you’re under a stagnant layer of ambivalence or self-doubt? Sharing regularly builds a certain power, a fortitude — and this can help propel you forward.
If you want to produce work and find your creative tribe, you have to organize:
Start scheduling in regular time to work on your craft. Don’t be overly ambitious at first, keep your scheduled time attainable to give you more confidence as you progress. Start compiling lists of people you look up to. One of the lists I’ve created is called “Product Friends” — a spreadsheet of product designers, managers, and researchers whose work inspires or encourages me. I include information such as location, current company, portfolio or profile link, and how we’re connected (if such a connection exists).
3. Ask for feedback
Ask for help from strangers whose work or viewpoint you admire. This can sometimes be difficult, but if we’re going to get better, we need to ask people for help. But it’s not only about you, it’s also about helping them, too. You may have knowledge that they need as well.
But what if you’re a painter and don’t know any other painters? Or any other writers? Or interior designers? Then use social media like Instagram or Twitter or Pinterest, or go to art stores/schools, bookstores, poetry readings, home decorating shops — any which way, get out there. Get engaged and ask for help. You’ll need it.
4. Get gritty
As Angela Duckworth describes, grit is “the combination of perseverance and passion for longterm goals”. One must have a positive outlook and the stamina to do great work, and bar unhealthy habits from becoming a threat to bringing work forward.
Television shows, the news, social media, alcohol, dating apps, certain relationships — all of these can be devastating to your craft. You need to get a handle on them and understand how they’re affecting you and your ability to make your life’s work happen.
5. Show YOUrself
Don’t try to be anyone else besides you, because your own uniqueness is what people are looking for. In a world where everyone is slowly lurching towards sameness, do something different, make something only you can.
One such designer is Dani Balenson, whose Intercom and Haggadah work seems impeccably her own. Another unique designer is Alexis Hope, who organizes hackathons like “Make the Breast Pump Not Suck” to improve women’s healthcare.
But what if you don’t know who you are yet? Go to therapy, see a career coach, start meditating, and/or journaling. Or ask friends who know you best what they think. Be realistic about what you want and what you can accomplish. Don’t shoot for the stars, focus on what’s in your heart.
So what are you waiting for? Or better yet, where are you?
Thanks for reading! For a great book on this topic, check out Mike Rognlien’s “This Is Now Your Company” or Austin Kleon’s “Show Your Work”. If you’re a part of my creative tribe, send a DM and let’s connect! 👀🧞