Sharing is a childhood lesson. Share! We’re admonished 88 times a day, but we don’t wanna because every other kid wants what we have, and how do we know we’ll get it back? Intact? Less another’s grubby fingerprints and spit?
Maybe this is why the business world calls it iterating instead – to distance sharing from its tantrum context.
“You need to iterate!” I’ll tell students as they develop their client solution for my creativity class. The entrepreneurial failure rate is high and most start-ups fail because they can’t find their market before the money runs out.
“So Iterate!” I say again. “Don’t develop in the back room and assume your solution solves a problem. Show it to the people who have the problem, get their feedback, and pivot accordingly. Then do it again.”
Iterate & Pivot, Iterate & Pivot … early and often until you get the match and the money to stay open another day.
The students nod, but they don’t wanna. I can see it in their eyes.
“Why? Why won’t you share your stuff?”
“Because it’s scary.”
There you have it – a class full of grown-ups who haven’t grown out of their fear of sharing … because they’ve grown up and understand something our child selves never could.
The real problem with sharing is not that someone will take our stuff and keep it. It’s that they won’t take it at all.
This fear played on repeat when I shared my first chapters with my writing buddy two years ago. What if she never reads it (because it’s crap)? What if she starts reading it but doesn’t finish it (because it’s crap)? What if she finishes it and hates it (because it’s crap)? None of these things happened, but in the agonizing 48 hours it took for her to get back to me (every hour is dog years when you first share your stuff), I was convinced the parentheticals were inevitable. Just like I’m convinced the roller coaster will stop at the top of the hill and I’ll have to climb down, freestyle.
None of the feedback – no matter how extensive – was ever as bad as the sharing hand-off, though I eventually calmed it on down with that, too. By the concluding chapters, my writing buddy could have my stuff for up to 49 hours before I went fetal. But I hadn’t written the book for just her and me. So I iterated again, this time with the whole book to four whole other people, and I gave them two whole weeks to do it (though I meant a weekend and hoped for less). I got their feedback and pivoted. I iterated again – more friends, some family – and pivoted. Then I iterated to an editor. Pivoted. And to another editor. Pivoted.
I share this process with my class, complete with all the dramatic tones so they can step into the agony that is sharing your stuff.
“Sharing is scary because the stakes are high. But what if I hadn’t? What if I’d descended into my basement writing room and scribbled away, emerging a year later to publish my work without ever sharing it with another soul?
“What’s the risk?”
The question silences the room. A few seconds later, a brave student raises her hand.
“A book no one wants to read.”
Bingo. And better to hear that early days, though the last two years of Iterating & Pivoting have shown me the feedback is rarely that binary so much as it’s more of this and less of that. All of the feedback – implemented or not, conflicting or not, nice or not – has made the book better because it’s challenged me to get better at what I do. And all of it has grown me up, which is necessary because each step on the road to publishing has upped the sharing ante, bringing me to the present moment where anyone – not just the people I curate – can read my stuff.
It feels like a free fall, but it’s time. And to stall it by iterating and pivoting just one more time feels like a coward’s maneuver.
Which I’m not.
But I’m still not so brave.
So how about a countdown? Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Friday! Come back here Friday, and I’ll share with you what this book is about.