The Dynamics of Working in Public

Show Your Work

A while ago, I came across the idea of working public. Showing your work in progress as a way to find other people that are interested in the same topics and get feedback on your ideas.

The SVA Entrepreneurial Design syllabus asks students to publish their work in progress. By placing their ideas out in public, the classroom becomes a different place:

it puts all of us—the students and the instructors—on the same team. Whether the students hit their $1,000 goal is up to the world, not us. So in the course, we are their coaches and allies working with them, not grading or judging them.

As someone that is not in the classroom, publishing my ideas has other side effects:

  • More cohesive thoughts: To publish my ideas they have to be self-contained and intelligible in order to communicate to other people. Through this refinement, they become more defined for me, too.
  • Room for new ideas: Once a thought if externalized, I can continue refine it or make room for the next idea. Translating amorpheous ideas into words or images reveals new questions that still need to be considered.

Show Your Work

The book cover at the top is from Show Your Work. It’s a short read about ways to think about sharing your work. Some takeaways and nice reminders for me were:

Reminders on why we should share:

  • You can’t find your voice if you don’t use it.
  • Read the obituaries to remind ourselves of how much is possible. Similar to Steve Jobs’ commencement speech to remind us that we all have a limited amount of time here.

How to share:

  • Become a documentarian of your work.
  • Share something small every day about your work that’s useful or interesting. This reminds me of the hand lettering Raul posts on his Instagram.
  • Create a space to share. Find your medium for stock and flow content. Not being a musician, I’ve wondered how musicians can share something every day when it might take a year to produce an album.
  • Reflect on your daily posts to find recurring ideas. Turn the flow into stock.
  • Don’t hoard, attribute properly, and share what you find interesting from other’s work.
  • Don’t spam. There is a spectrum of hoarder, contributor, spammer. By sharing other people’s work, you are listening and participating in the community, rather than just waiting for your turn to talk.
  • Teach what you know.
  • Ask for support. Keep a mailing list.
  • Synonyms for work in progress that you can share: research, reference, drawings, plans, sketches, interviews, audio, photographs, pinboards, video, journals, drafts, prototypes, demos, diagrams, notes, inspiration, scrapbooks, stories, collections.

Some ideals to strive for:

  • Surround yourself with people that energize you.
  • Prioritize hearts over eyeballs.