The Courageous Decision to Show Your Work

The only way to find your voice is to use it.
—Austin Kleon

The hardest decisions we face are the ones that can’t be made without you — in other words, the important stuff that often doesn’t feel urgent.

The Courageous Decision to Show Your Work

Like taking your spouse out to dinner for no reason at all. Or showing that coworker how much you appreciate her. Even deciding to hit “publish” on a blog post.

They’re the decisions that if you don’t make them no one notices but you. It’s the choice to leave your job when you think it’s time, despite the fact that everyone says you do great work. It’s the choice to launch an important project when there is plenty of email to answer.

These are the decisions that shape us, that shape our world and affect our future. They’re not easy decisions to make, but they are important.

The better of two goods

Often, it might feel like choosing between two pretty good options. But in your heart you know which one is right. The life of an artist is full of moments like this. Moments where the only wrong choice is to not move forward, to stagnate.

I can’t say what this means for you. For me, it means hanging onto a project far longer than I should. It means starting something (or finishing it) before I feel ready. It’s learning to trust my gut, obey my instinct, and listen to the spirit inside that says, “It’s time.”

One of the most important decisions I made happened three years ago. It was the decision to start calling myself a writer. When I did this, all kinds of crazy things started happening. The most amazing one was this: I finally began to believe I was a writer.

And as a result, I began to act like it, publishing and sharing my work.

Eventually, the world started to take notice. Publishers, agents, and editors were now asking me to write. Instead of me going to them, the gatekeepers were showing up at my doorstep, which was, admittedly, weird. But I’ve learned to embrace the lesson in this experience.

In the words of Maya Angelou, “Nothing works until you do.”

Daily decisions make a difference

Now, the biggest decisions I face on a daily basis involve when to release my work to the world.

For example, I’ve been finishing up the manuscript for my next book, which in many ways feels like the most important thing I’ve ever written. But I’m beyond petrified of finishing it. Which is what makes me confident I need to do it.

When you begin to feel that fear of inadequacy, knowing you’ve done the work and simply sat on your behind, this is a telltale sign that it’s time to ship. To let go. To turn the work in and move on to the next project.

I’m thankful for this hesitation, the thing that causes me to deliberate over something until it’s as close to perfect as I can make it. But at the same time, I kind of hate it. It’s paralyzing.

So without thinking, I close my eyes and hit send on the email or “publish” that blog post and let go of my work which will never be totally finished.

Often, I have no idea if it’s going to move people or flop. But that’s not my call to make. What’s mine to do, and perhaps yours as well, is to do the work and accept the outcome. Quality comes with time.

Your job is to trust the process and keep showing up.

Note: If you’ve ever wondered what this looks like practically or what you can do to put your work out in the world, I recommend starting a blog. Next week, I’ll be sharing something that will help you take all the hassle out of blogging so that you can get your message heard. Stay tuned!

What courageous decision to share your work can you make today? Share in the comments.

94 thoughts on “The Courageous Decision to Show Your Work

  1. This is a great expression of how I also feel as a writer! It is by taking those steps and moving forward that great things happen.

  2. Jeff, thank you for continuing to “pour courage” into me with your words. I am beyond grateful for you!

  3. I always appreciate your content Jeff. One question for either you or the community of writers here: what other avenues for “showing your work” would you recommend other than blogging? I already blog and have a regular following, but have trouble getting my work out there beyond my own blog. Any recommendations? Or should I just keep growing my blog?

    1. Hi Sara – I know you asked Jeff this question, but I wanted to chime in because I recently had a positive experience with this. I simply wrote an email to my local paper and asked if they would like to republish a blog article I wrote. To my surprise, they said “yes” and it ran last week online and in print.

      I also became friends with an editor of a magazine in my niche, and I asked if she would like to republish another article I wrote – again, to my surprise she said “yes” and it will be published later this month.

      Go to a newspaper website and find out who the editors are for your niche and ask if they’d like to republish one of your popular posts. And if you want to submit an idea to the Huffington Post, you can do that by going here – https://docs.google.com/a/huffingtonpost.com/forms/d/1gitPnE14Y892kqpbXQEcZMVEcTNO8hkEZv_y386KbnM/viewform

      Ask and you might receive!

    2. Yes. Write for magazines or other websites. Publish an eBook and share it on Amazon. Be generous with your work and people will line up to pay you for it. 🙂

  4. I am going to share my work through writing two thank you notes today (I am also a writer). Bigger decisions are to come though!

  5. Hi,

    I just wrote my first book. Got a publisher, listed it on Amazon and other websites. Now comes the all important part – marketing. And I am having jitters talking to my friends and family about it. Because I don’t know what they’d think of the book.

    Thanks for sharing this. I think I will go ahead and share the book with everyone I know. Even if its bad, I’d get feedback that would help me improve with the next one!

    Thanks Jeff!

    Regards,
    SG

  6. I started a personal blog in May and I remember being a little upset when my wife shared a post on Facebook because I wasn’t quite ready for the “world” to see what I wrote.

    Letting others see my work is scary.

    Last week, I had an article published in our local paper (The Charlotte Observer) and I was really nervous how it would be taken by strangers. But that’s why I enjoy reading your words – they encourage me to walk into the dark a little bit and put myself out there. And I’m glad I do, because I’ve received feedback that my words have helped others, which is a pretty fantastic feeling.

  7. Great blog! I am going to start publishing this week. I just completed the 30 Day challenge and loved it; it was like drilling through blockage to a flowing river. Thanks Jeff.

  8. Thanks for sharing this article! Recently, I decided to share my work a little more and just released my first book, from many of the early reactions I’m glad that I did. At first there was a lot of fear, but now knowing my words have helped others the feeling has changed to excitement.

  9. Thanks, I needed this! I just released a new blog that I had been hanging onto for months…still not sure if it’s gonna fly or flop but I feel better today having gotten it out of my system. Good to know other people (successful people like yourself) go through this.

  10. It’s interesting that you mention starting a blog. I’m thinking about starting a blog to show my work. To me, that’s the most courageous thing Ican do. I am looking forward to your post next week.

  11. Thank you so much for posting this. I have been reading your blog and the one about guest posting really resonates with me, but I have been so afraid to submit my guest posts. I literally thought about my last post for days, and finally wrote it last night and sent it this morning, hoping that someone picks it up. I’m extremely nervous, but this post has made me feel better. Hopefully it all works out.

  12. Great reminder, Jeff. Trust the process
    and keep showing up. Sometimes the lessons we learn are more for us than for someone else when we do show up. If we stop showing up we risk missing some of those beautiful moments.

  13. The LATEST important decision to show my work happened last week. I’ve wanted to pitch a guest post to famed editor Jane Friedman for over a year, but was too afraid. I was still afraid, but had thought of a perfect post for her audience. I emailed her Thursday. She responded the next day and said she was posting “it as” tomorrow (11/11). I’m so grateful I finally got sick of my fear and did that scary thing anyway!

  14. I know the feeling. I believe the third book to my Cult Trilogy, coming out in 2015, is the best of the three, yet I’m hesitant to finish. But I’ve been learning. I’m publishing higher quality work regularly because I’m willing to hit that publish button. My biggest piece of advice to writers and for all of life is to… Keep It Simple.

  15. It takes courage to share what you create with the world. When you put your heart and soul into something putting out there to possibly be criticized is rough. I experience that trepidation every time time I put up an article or a piece of art online.

    I found that once I started thinking of myself as an author and an artist my courage grew and the way others responded to me changed. It’s funny how a subtle shift in attitude can make all the difference.

  16. I have struggled with this but I followed your advice and started a blog. I share my posts on Facebook and get fantastic responses much to my surprise. I have a writer friend that tells me the same things you say in this blog post but it takes a while to sink in. Thanks for the encouragement.

  17. Once again I found myself in every syllable written here. Jeff, you not only build courage in us, more importantly the confidence we need to do the work that matters. Recently I turned the writing corner and just started writing like no one would ever read it. For no other reason, it was my best move. I found that I was still seeking the approval of my readers in each post. I thought I was past that. So I went the opposite way. I am different now. I’m writing from the validation I believe and know I have. I’m good enough, anointed, appointed, and approved to live free to the design inside. Its really a perspective change but I’m confident, strong, brave. Writing raw, writing real because its authentically me. Thank you for believing in us. The hope I receive from your leadership has changed my life.

  18. I can’t begin to tell you how timely this is, Jeff, as though God sent you to give me a holy shove today. Thank you. It is time.

  19. It never ceases to amaze me how fantastic your timing is, Jeff! It was just after doing a final grammar en spelling check on the manuscript of my first book that I saw this post of yours. Besides this being my first book ever, it is also my first book in Dutch (a language I just learned three years ago) and my first go on poetry. I had wanted to have it finished end of April this year, but due to a lot of things coming into the way (moving two times this year, quitting a job, hunting for a new one, finding out that my notebooks software basically isn’t compatible with any possible platform to publish the book on…- to name just a few) it has taken until now. I can’t say how relieved I am that this is really happening now! Okay, I will still have the manuscript checked by a professional and might have to adjust a few things, but to me it feels like the main work is done, the rest is minor important and (in comparison to the whole process) it will be quick and easy to do. Which is also thanks to the decision to keep taking my writing even more serious and buying a ‘new’ second hand notebook with which the same stuff I struggled to get done for weeks magically could be done in two afternoon sessions. Am I drifting into off-topic now? I am not sure, but the point I try making is: I had so been longing for this project to be done, for my first book ever, first poetry-book and first Dutch book ever to be finished, I had so many obstacles coming in the way and so many times where I was close to giving up. But I didn’t. I kept showing up. I kept going for my dream of doing this. I have had a lot of vital mental support from my friends, but also your wonderfully written and quite often so well timed posts, helped me through it! So: Thanks a lot, Jeff!

  20. Publishing the blog posts is easy. Finishing the book? That trips me out every time!!
    Thanks for a great post. Now back to working on the book.

  21. “The life of an artist is full of moments like this. Moments where the only wrong choice is to not move forward, to stagnate.”

    This is the most important thing I’ve heard for a long time. Thank You Jeff! Thank You! I needed to read this today!!!!

  22. I’m in the same position, Jeff. Getting ready to release the second book (awaiting the first proofs as we speak), and it can be terrifying. Anxious times, filled with doubts and double-guessing, but I’m also super excited to put it out there. After building a modest-sized fan base with the first release, readers are chomping at the bit for a new title (I suspect some of them may think I’m a “one trick pony,” or a “flash in the pan” who fizzled after the first book – time to prove them wrong).
    This new piece has been a work-in-progress for more than a decade, whereas the first book (a novella) was written and published in the last year and a half. In many ways, this new one feels (and is) more significant – I can definitely relate to what you’re feeling with your work. How about we just take a breath and plunge into that cold, icy water? Good to know others will be floating around in it too! 🙂

  23. Maybe it is not directly related, but your post reminded me of an analogy. Where I live, my building is very close to another building and we can see each other’s apartments. That did not bother me at all and I did not even closed the curtains in the evenings… before I found out that one of my co-workers lived right in the apartment in front of mine… then I became cautious…
    The same thing happened when I started blogging. When no one read me back in the beginning I hit publish with absolutely no further thought… Once my readership grew the decision of opening up and sharing things became harder.
    I am happy I overcame that fear though and ended up sharing my stories with my audience. I will not change it for anything else now 🙂

  24. Hi Jeff,
    I recently shared my blog with some people I know locally. It was a tough call and i agonised over it for some time. I even did some extra sprucing before clicking send on the message I submitted to them. Although I haven’t had much feedback just yet, it has created a new edge to my work that is somewhat challenging but also motivating, at least from a quality control perspective.
    Its pretty exciting as well.

    Andrew

  25. Think I would like to edit some of the pieces I wrote during the challenge and post on a blog I started several years ago.

  26. Beautiful post Jeff one of your best and its comforting to read you still get nervous when you are about to publish a new book. Shine on and I will try to follow, inspired by your words.

  27. Jeff, these are so inspiring words and could easily apply to any of life’s situations or careers. Thank you for reminding me that life is now, not tomorrow.

  28. I’ve finished my book, but I’m hesitating on seeking an agent, publisher. I just know it’s so much work and probably a lot of disappointment, so I’m dreading that aspect. I do have a blog and have no trouble posting there…but this book, half the time I think I’ll just take it to Staples and print a copy for myself. ARGH! This post, I hope, will get me moving. Thank you.

  29. Dear Jeff, I don’t know how many of your readers are Christian, And I believe you are ,, I am asking for Prayers, my husband is going in for a lung biopsy in the morning and I am hoping you and those who come here will pray for a safe surgery and recovery. Thank you

      1. Hi Mike thank you for your prayers, he came home yesterday just raring to go, we wont know the results til Monday. But they were able to get good clean samples. ( just wish he would quit smoking- lol) nice to meet another believer.

          1. Hi Mike, hes still undergoing tests to see how bad things are…. we’ll know farther after Thanksgiving…. Thanks for asking. As funny as it is I have keep busy adding to a new writing blog I created. Working on stories to put there has helped refocus my mind.

      1. Thank you Anne, I am happy to say he is home and doing nicely. The next step is to see what the doctor says Monday. But I’ll come back here and let ya know what happens

  30. Jeff, THANK YOU for all true great info you GIVE AWAY! You are a daily inspiration for me, I am just now starting a blog and I hit publish today for the first time in YEARS! I look forward to what the journey holds!

  31. I loved this article Jeff. It takes me back to the night when I opened up my blog after months of preparation and research. I was hesitating a bit because I wasn’t sure if I can live with the decision but I said what the hell. I will never really know if I don’t try so I did exactly what you described above. I closed my eyes before hitting on the button to purchase a webhost.

  32. Wow Jeff! As always you did it again! I especially love the quote “What’s mine to do, and perhaps yours as well, is to do the work and accept the outcome. Quality comes with time.”

    Hitting publish or send can be very scary, because rejection or crickets, or someone getting offending, misinterpreting your words etc. can be on the other side. But the more I hit publish or commit to ship, the better I become.

  33. Seth Godin from Linchpin: “We don’t have a talent shortage, we have a shipping shortage.” That one line probably spoke to me more than any others in that book! And it’s what I need to work on the most. Thanks for the reminder.

  34. I’m wondering if the courageous decision for me is to not worry about reaching 100 for the launch team but to ship my two new children’s books anyway. I can’t pick a launch date because I’ve been waiting till I reached 100 and I’m at 54. But I feel like I’m stalling as i wait. Still working on things I need to work on, but I’m not getting to launch.

  35. Hi Jeff,

    New to your blog, and absolutely love it. Brilliant post on Problogger BTW.

    I show my comments, eBooks and posts regularly to conquer the fear of failing, and to assail the fear of being criticized. What a blessing. Sharing has helped me inspire others to blog from paradise. Sharing inspires me to get more clear on my blog, my brand and my life.

    I published an email not 20 minutes ago. I spoke/chatted with a well-meaning person who criticized my work. My showing helped me get clear on my content – it is pretty solid, and I know it – and also, helped me address one pressing problem for the blogger, as we know all criticism is a projection/reflection of self.

    Sharing helped me find good matches, and helped me release non matches, and also gave me priceless feedback, and also helped me realize what feedback I should tune out, and also helped me feel free. We’re in this game to share, and to show, and if you show, wow, it’s amazing where life will take you. Thanks Jeff.

    Ryan

  36. Okay Jeff! I did it! I finally bit the bullet and released my first blog post ever a few minutes ago. Whew! What a liberating feeling. I’ve been suffering from paralysis of analysis for the past few weeks and just wouldn’t let go. Your posts have been nagging me and your video series pushed me right to the edge. Then this post made me jump. Aaaaah! It’s scary but I’m excited! Thanks for brilliantly sharing your writing wisdom and for being refreshingly transparent.

  37. Uggh, yes! I know that paralyzing fear you spoke of. I had a publisher interested in me and since then my book has stalled at chapter three. Paralyzing is the perfect word to describe it!

  38. I needed to read this! I’ve written about 50 blog posts, crappy first drafts and some edited, yet I’ve been sitting on it. Paralyzed to press play.

    This week I’m gonna let it fly
    And not ask why
    Because before I die
    I’ll wonder why I didn’t just try…..

    Liberation. Separation. Elevation.

  39. I am so, so new to this. I read The Art of Work last month and it’s been a Goins roller coaster ride since then! I get committed and then I get scared and then I’m committed again. Question. Is it okay to post a link to this article on my blog? I shared it on Facebook when it came across my feed and made my commentary, but a blog seems so…professional and I’m unsure of protocol. You are helping me. Striking chords and ringing bells.

  40. Love this. Today I poured my heart out in a blog post about my mother-in-law who passed away last week. I hesitated to publish because my post was vulnerable, exposing my raw emotion. Tomorrow I will return to that piece and click “Publish.” Thanks for reminding me that the power is showing up to play the game, not how the game is scored.

Comments are closed.