I never show my work. What do I mean by that? After all, I post a new article on this website every single week without fail. I mean something similar to what George McFly says to Marty McFly during the cafeteria scene in Back to the Future. Let’s talk about that scene and see if it might hold some important lessons we can learn from.
In that scene, Marty sees George sitting alone during lunch writing on a piece of paper, and he asks what George is doing. George says he’s writing science fiction stories about visitors coming to Earth from other planets. The more he talks, the more he seems to shrink into himself, realizing that he only sounds more ridiculous with each word he utters. He returns to his writing, trying to hide his shame.
However, Marty doesn’t mock him. He’s genuinely curious. He never knew that his father was so creative. But when he tries to grab the paper George is working on, George refuses to give it up, saying that he never lets anyone read his stories. “Why not?” Marty wonders aloud.
“What if they didn’t like them? What if they told me I was no good?” George responds, perfectly echoing Marty’s own words from the start of the film about sharing his own talent in music with people who might reject him. This momentarily silences Marty and makes him a bit more thoughtful about his father’s insecurities. They have something in common.
Showing My Work
In a way, I can relate to George, too. As a child, I hated in math class when I was told to show my work. I understand that the teachers wanted to make sure I was mastering the process of getting to the right answer, not just arriving there in some haphazard manner. I needed to get there in the most efficient way possible, I suppose. Or at least the way they prescribed.
However, it made me feel like I was going to do something wrong. All that mattered to me was ending up in the right place. As long as I did that, did it matter that I forgot to show every clumsy step I took? The journey is often messy. I like the destination much better.
So that’s what I meant at the start when I said I never show my work. And it goes far beyond mathematics. I love writing, but I would be mortified if anyone ever read a first draft of mine. I’ve been encouraged to share my work in Google Docs and other places as I’m writing so that people can see my progress. But such an idea is intolerable to me.
I’m kind of a perfectionist. It’s embarrassing when I make a mistake, even a small one. Those inevitably happen, but I do my best to minimize them. And the only way I can do that is by not showing my work until I’ve arrived at the best possible answer.
My wife is the only one who gets to read my work before I’ve really nailed down a new article. I trust her because she’s basically an extension of myself, and I of her. She’s not upset when I put out less-than-stellar work. She just points out the flaws and encourages me to fix them, which I do. In a very loving way, of course. She sees me at my worst, and she still loves me, so I’m eternally grateful to her.
But the Internet isn’t an ideal place for showing weakness. It can be rather unforgiving, so I recommend always keeping your guard up and not oversharing. I wouldn’t feel right sharing something I didn’t feel proud of online. It would reflect poorly on me if I ever published a first draft of an article by accident. Because first drafts are always awful.
I’ve talked about it before in my article, “A Writer’s Work Is Never Finished.” I’m constantly editing my work right up until it’s published.
By George, I Think We’ve Got It
George McFly eventually overcame his fear of rejection and got a book published. It took him 30 years after meeting Marty as a teenager, but he did it! If someone as introverted and awkward as George McFly could do that, then maybe we all can. Not publish a book necessarily, but overcome our fear of rejection.
Even though I never show my work, I still manage to publish a new article every week. I’ve done that for the past 11 years. And most of what I’ve published I’m still proud of today.
Perhaps my fear of looking bad is a flaw I need to work on. I’m not sure. Having a weekly publication deadline helps me push past my fears and do great work, though. I mean, not all of us have time-traveling children who can give us that extra oomph to do what needs to be done.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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Want to Support the Deja Reviewer?
If you’d like to support the Deja Reviewer, please consider donating a few dollars to keep this site going strong. I’ll even send you an original joke if you do! Try it, and prepare to enjoy a good chuckle.