What We're Into: Showing Work in Progress

No matter what line of work you're in  designing websites, selling consumer goods, making fine art, building roads and bridges  the focus is usually on the finished product, not the act of creating it. But as we discussed last week, the process is important: People's motivation and performance on the job depends on their enjoyment of the task itself and on their ability to make daily, meaningful progress.
 
We can learn a lot about process by observing how other people work. In his book, Show Your Work!, writer and artist Austin Kleon encourages people to make their process more transparent. In the past, he says, an artist's behind-the-scenes trajectory would be carefully hidden from view. But because the Internet makes it possible to quickly and widely share images and bits of writing, creators now have the ability to show all of the steps, often in real time. People can post photos of unfinished canvases or pages of scribbled notes; list their influences; discuss their equipment and technique; or post an early draft and ask for feedback. 
 
Kleon knows from experience that posting work in progress online can connect you to people who share your interests and influences, often leading to friendships and collaborations. Publishing work and your thoughts about it publicly is also a way to teach others what you've learned and compare notes with peers. People really are eager to see the process, to gain an understanding of the detailed labor behind the finished work.
 
Even if your material doesn't reach a lot of people, though, the act of documenting the process is still valuable. You can spot trends and recurring themes, note what worked and what didn't so you can improve next time, and keep track of bits and pieces that may not be right for your current project but that you want to save for the future. Kleon's advice is skewed toward artists, but it's useful to record and be aware of your process no matter what type of work you do.
 
See more of Austin Kleon's art, writing, and work in progress on his website!