It doesn’t matter if you’re a fiction writer, a landscape photographer, or an avid crafter selling your 3D-printed fidget spinners online. To show your readers how you created something — whether it’s a physical object or something more amorphous — is to bring them closer to your world. Next time you’re struggling to come up with a new post idea for your site, just invite your visitors behind the scenes. Here are three ways you can go about it.
We love to present our work in its final, perfect form (or at least its “I’m tired and this is good enough” form), as if it fell from some alien spaceship, all shiny and flawless. Focusing on the gloss, however, erases one of the most interesting — and crucial — elements of the end product: you. Whether you work in a visual or textual medium, there’s always room to show the person behind the work — sometimes literally.
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Artist Rommel Joson, based in Manila, recently participated in an exhibition at the University of the Philippines’ Vargas Museum. Seeing the artwork on its own would’ve been interesting in its own right, but here Rommel chose to start with an image of the drawing coming into being, which not only adds an element of physicality to the post, but also anchors a very specific point of view.
Teach what you’ve learned
Some website niches lend themselves very easily to giving instructions based on personal experience: every recipe blog out there is, at its core, teaching its audience how to do something they hadn’t tried before. (When you’re Smitten Kitchen’s Deb Perelman, you also infuse the teaching with an irresistible storytelling voice.) But even topics that aren’t driven by hands-on, step-by-step instructions come with ways to give an insider’s look at your craft.
Case in point: to celebrate the publication of their book, Trans Like Me, author and trans activist C. N. Lester shared a post with five takeaways from the blog-to-book process, including many insights that could apply to anyone who’s just starting out in a competitive industry or field:
Despite not seeing myself writing a work of popular non-fiction, I was fully convinced (in 2010) that I would be a published author by, say, 2014. I had been writing fiction for years, and had had interest from agents since my teens. I had a novel ready to sell, and was sure that my academic gender tome would be ready before long.
If I’d have known that it would take another seven years, I would have been utterly overwhelmed by that odious mixture of blocked ambition and total sense of failure familiar to so many of us. It would have crushed me. And yet, of course — obviously — I couldn’t have written this book that I’m so proud of without all of those seven years — sense of failure and all.
Everything I’ve done in that time has helped me to become a better writer — everything.
Compare a “before” to an “after”
A creative process is just that — a sequence of steps that leads to your final work. There’s something deeply satisfying (for both creators and their audience) about seeing the stark difference between the starting point and the finish line.
The makeover images above are from oh.eight.oh.nine., the website of Australian designer Tarina Lyell. In her post, she shows the dramatic transformation she brought to a teenager’s bedroom — from drab and awkward to bright and streamlined.
While people who work in design, architecture, or DIY might have more obvious examples of before-and-after processes to share with their readers, any creator starts out with something hazy and unformed and ends up with a tangibly different object. If you’re a writer, show how a line of prose evolved over time. A photographer can highlight the finishing touches they added to their portrait. A freelance tutor can show the progress a student has made since they first started taking lessons (if you go that route, make sure to get permission from the person involved, of course).
There’s always an element of vulnerability to the act of opening up and taking strangers behind the scenes, exposing the spinning (and sometimes creaking) wheels that power your creative engines. But when you do so, you not only tell a compelling story — you also give a reader another reason to care.
How do you engage your visitors in your work? Share your insight in the comments.