Show your work
A little over a year ago, I decided to make a slight career change. After 20 years reporting, editing and producing in every news medium, I thought I might try something new.
I’ve always had the idea that I’d like to write full time, but it’s never really worked out that way. I wrote a nonfiction book, Man vs Markets, a few years ago, and I’ve experimented with fiction for years, but I’ve always loved working in journalism. Writing is a solitary business, and I enjoy the buzz and camaraderie of a newsroom. I also get a big kick out of managing people, and working in teams to get things done. So while I enjoyed writing, I didn’t have as much success with it as I did as a manager, so writing full-time didn’t really seem like such a good fit for me.
But a few years ago, I started to realize a couple of things. In the past I had always considered myself a practical type: more ‘management’ than ‘creative’. But after I had done some creative work, including working on a video explainer series, producing a radio show and writing that book, I found I wanted to do more. And that I wanted to do that kind of work more than I wanted to do the management-type work. Unfortunately, while the people I worked for at the time were quite happy for me to do creative work – and valued me for it – they valued me much more for the management-type work that I had been doing. And they wanted me to keep doing it.
It became clear quite quickly that if I wanted to do the kind of work that I really wanted to do, I was going to have to do it alone.
I had to quit.
While I was coming to this decision, a friend gave me a little book called Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon. It’s kind of a social media action plan, telling writers to blog or microblog, letting people know what they’re up to, to build an audience or a fellowship, and stay in touch with it. As I read it, it’s a way of staying grounded, connected and helpful, all at the same time.
I’m going to give it a try. Maybe it’ll be like a tree falling, deep in the forest. Or maybe it’ll be helpful. To someone struggling with making a decision about his or her career, perhaps. Or someone working out whether and how they should quit a job. Or change a career. Or maybe it’ll simply be a resource for people who are writing and are interested in another person’s creative process.
I plan to write about all of those things on this blog. One day it’ll be something about the research I’m doing for my next novel. Another day it could be an observation about the journalism landscape. Or a reflection on the best way to make decisions about which way to turn in one’s career. Whatever happens to be on my mind.