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Show Your Work!

A story was told of a famous writer who was invited to speak to a bunch of aspiring writers. So he walked into the room and…

A story was told of a famous writer who was invited to speak to a bunch of aspiring writers. So he walked into the room and asked: “how many of you want to be writers?”

All hands went up. “In that case,” he said, “go home and write.” Then he walked out of the room. End of lecture. 

The essence of the famous writer’s dramatic performance was to send the message that you can’t learn anything by listening to a lecture. You learn by doing. Programmers learn to be programmers by coding. The same way, writers learn to be writers by writing. 

But the famous writer left out the second part that is equally crucial: show your work. Share your work with the world.  There is actually a best selling book of the same title by Austin Kleon. The author argued convincingly that to learn and to earn, you must share your work. 

Many creators are afraid of showing their work because it is not perfect. Well, welcome to the world!

You’re in good company because perfection is unattainable and when you do, it is not sustainable. There is no perfect anything in the world. No perfect parents, no perfect marriage, no perfect country and no perfect world. You get the idea. So post your writing on your social media space today and let the world see it in all its imperfections.

Of course, this is easier said than done. I’m also struggling to overcome this. In 2020 and early 2021, I created a bunch of videos that I wanted to post on YouTube and share on social media. But I wanted to share it first with those close to me since I’m not a YouTuber and had little confidence in creating videos. Big mistake!

A couple of them criticised it. And that is all I needed to be discouraged and persuaded to lock the videos away forever. 

But another time I went on vacation with my son. One day, I woke up and picked up the phone to record a two minutes video. I shared it and everyone loved it. 

If I had shown it to people before publishing, someone would have been unkind enough to “attack” it. That is why I’m very careful when creators ask me to critique their content. You want to tell the truth yet you don’t want to demoralize them. 

Next time I’m ready to make videos, I will just show it before asking for feedbacks. Sometimes, you don’t need to ask. People would volunteer it. So take the good feedback and improve. That is the key. You must continue to improve your work by reading, observing and learning from others. 

Almost every day, I get messages by people saying that they want to be writers but don’t know how to start. If you are one of those, here’s your assignment: write a post of at least 150 words and share it on social media. Today! You don’t know how to start? I’ve got you covered: read the following three articles I wrote to address that problem. You can find the articles on DailyTrust.com.ng or my Facebook page. I’ve also given a summary of them below. 

One: Start from the Middle 

The best way to start writing is from the middle. Why? Because the beginning is the most difficult part of writing. You agonize how to start and what to say and where to start. So by not starting from the beginning, you are eliminating the most difficult part of writing. 

It could also be argued that the beginning of many activities in life is the hardest. Fortunately, writing affords us the flexibility that is  not available to other things. In writing, you have the freedom to begin wherever you want – at least during the first draft of your writing. 

Other aspects of life do not afford you the flexibility to start this way. For example, you can’t start your education from the middle.  And except you are a royal, you can’t start your career from the middle. But writing is different. 

Two: Start with a Statistic

Did you know that 97% of people who started writing a book never finish it?  “Out of every 1,000 people that set out to do so, only 30 actually complete the task,” explained thesynergyexpert.com. This is to say nothing about those who never started. 

The reason why many “writers” don’t start is simply that they don’t know how to start. 

Now, there are many ways to start a piece of writing. But one of the more accessible ways is to start with a statistic as a foundation and build up from there. That is how I started this article.

Three: A Bad Beginning Makes a Disastrous End

Today, I want to talk about the beginnings and the beginners: beginning writers and beginning an essay. The most important part of an essay is the beginning. Get it right and you do not only get the reader to read to the end but also, you may get them to forgive other infractions.  A professor once told us that a good beginning makes a better end. This is true in writing. What is not true is its prequel: ”a bad beginning makes a good end.” 

No. It does not. 

There are those who have the natural gift to get things right at the first try; and there is the rest of us, who must learn the right techniques or perish. 

One popular piece of advice for those who want to present their ideas is this:

Tell them what you want to tell them (introduction).  Tell them (body). Tell them you have told them (conclusion).

In sum, show your work. Don’t worry if it isn’t good enough. You will improve with practice.