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Under Construction

Should you show unfinished work to other people?

When I was twenty-years-old and had just started working in the television industry, I pitched a film script to an executive at the company. The script wasn't quite finished yet but I felt it was at a stage that was suitable enough to be pitched. The meeting seemed to go well, but I never heard anything back after the meeting.

Two years later my idea appeared at cinemas, pretty much word for word exactly as I had written it. I had been ripped off, good and proper.

That experience hurt me deeply, and I didn't write again for years.

It taught me a few things though.

One of the things it taught me was not to share unfinished work with other people.

When you have an idea, it is a delicate seed that needs time to germinate and grow deep roots, before you should ever consider sharing it. When you discuss an idea with other people, other than when in a creative collaboration, they will either steal it, troubleshoot it, ridicule it, or, if you are unusually lucky, they may display some paltry measure of enthusiasm for it.

You’ve also weakened the potency of the idea by putting it out there when it isn’t fully formed.

And, most people don't really give a shit about other people's plans, ideas and schemes. They'll believe it when they see it, and, even then, most people begrudge other people's achievements. Sorry to be a party pooper, but we humans are a selfish bunch who would much rather marvel and people’s failures than champion their successes.

So, not only have you probably bored the pants off everybody with your talk of future achievements, but you have also instantly created pressure to now deliver the finished idea, otherwise, you are just someone who talks the talk and doesn't walk it. And who wants to be that person?

Over more recent years, social media has brought about the phenomenon of people documenting their ‘creative journeys’ and inviting people into the ‘process’ of their work. I have to admit that I’m a little bit fascinated by getting a peak behind the curtain in this way, but also not fooled into thinking that the person is actually letting you in on any hidden trade secrets. This sharing is equally as much about the giving as well as the taking. The act of giving something away in order to gain attention and generate awareness is hardly altruistic, but there’s value for both parties so it’s fair enough.

I’m naturally something of an introvert, and so the overt sharing of my life isn’t something I’m particularly comfortable with anyway, coupled with the scars of previous creative theft and I am possibly left standing somewhat alone, guarding my intellectual property like my life depended upon it.

I am also much more comfortable to talk about something that is an actual thing, completed, finished, real, tangible. Then, the largest part of the job is already done, the pressure is off. So then when people want to tell you their opinion, and believe me they will, at least you can know that you did what you said you were going to do.

You are a walker not just a talker. That’s something to be proud of in itself.

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