Learning to Show My Work

The last time I remember being asked to show my work was in a high school math class. Before I became a grad student in a UX program, I was a writer and editor. As a writer, I would work for months on a story. I kept spreadsheets with research links and contact info for sources, and hours of taped interviews. If I got stuck working on a draft, I would often literally cut and paste it. I’d print it out, chop it up with scissors, and then spread the pieces out on a table (or sometimes a floor), mixing and moving them to try a new angle. Then I’d tape the new version together, and proceed with edits.

No one ever saw that, nor did a reader ever see the drafts or correspondence with editors. And when I became an editor, my end goal was a publication so cohesive that readers didn’t even know I was there. I was whiteboarding and sketching layout concepts with graphic designers, but no one ever saw that process either.

There’s a good reason, by the way, that writers don’t make drafts and notes public. Writing is a discovery process, and as you move forward with a story you often realize you are wrong about something, or that you need additional information. Credibility is everything, and you don’t want to undermine yourself by sharing work too soon. Still, the opacity of the process is part of what can make it difficult to develop as a writer.

Two months into my journey as a UX design student, I’m still in the process of relearning how to show my work. It’s been a challenge, because it’s been more than a decade since someone wanted to hear about my thought process.

It was a nice surprise, beginning this program and finding out that people want to know the thought that went into what I create and all the iterations I go through before finalizing something. It’s been beneficial too; being able to see the work of the rest of my cohort is helping me hone my skills more quickly, and the insights we gain by seeing the visual representations of how others think is inspiring.

(As I’m finalizing this draft, I’m also wishing I had tracked my changes to share with you. Wouldn’t that have been fun to post here? Dang. Instead, I’ll leave you with a photo of the notes I wrote for this Medium post.)