I just finished Show Your Work. It's such a good little primer on how much you can gain from sharing your in-progress work as you go, as well as really specific tactical pointers on what and how to share. It was a real shot in the arm that I needed—I’ve been feeling so stuck.
I’m doing work that I’m proud of and thinking lots of thoughts, and I really miss the communities I’ve been neglecting, but where to even start? Twitter was great ten years ago but is now a distracting hellscape. Also not as permanent or portable, so I’m supposed to make a website on my own domain, right? And aren’t I supposed to have a “Personal Brand” and then only share things that the Personal Brand version of me would share? So what about the things I want to talk about that don’t fit into that mold? It’s…a lot.
So I really liked Kleon’s suggestion: just write about what interests you. I can do that!
OK, so once I’ve found something that interests me, what do I say about it?
I paged through his blog to see how he approaches this, as he seems pretty happy with his system: “Absolutely everything good that has happened in my career can be traced back to my blog. My books, my art shows, my speaking gigs, some of my best friendships—they all exist because I have my own little piece of turf on the Internet.” His posts about blogging are particularly interesting, and I love his post framing blogging as pointing at things.
When you write,” says Steven Pinker , “you should pretend that you, the writer, see something in the world that’s interesting, that you are directing the attention of your reader to that thing in the world, and that you are doing so by means of conversation.”
“Which sounds obvious,” says Burkeman , “except that it makes immediately clear how many writers are doing something else.” Academics are often more focused on showing off their knowledge, or their membership in an exclusive circle…. Journalists are often trying to inflame your anger, or rally support for some cause.
I don’t share his disdain for journalists, but it’s true that I really love the work of writers who use this approach. Some, like Mary Roach and other science writers, use it to share really fascinating new human knowledge. Others use it to share their perspective on events we’re both watching unfold—I learn so much from watching Marco Rogers react to news around engineering management.
So this was a useful prompt to get me thinking about what role I want in the pointing. Where am I positioned in the conversation between you and the ideas? There’s a wide spectrum, with the strictly curatorial retweet on one end, and on the other is sharing only entirely original works. I’d like to hit something in between and am excited to play with a few different approaches!