Find New Contexts for Your Work

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Updated November 3, 2022

You’re reading an excerpt of Creative Doing, by Herbert Lui. 75 practical techniques to unlock creative potential in your work, hobby, or next career. Purchase now for instant, lifetime access to the book.

I’ve been writing online for years. With the best of intentions, friends would suggest that I start a vlog, or a podcast. It used to bother me, but now I take it as part of a vast feedback channel. Instead of starting a vlog or podcast myself, I look for people who work in those areas and try to get my work out to them. Rather than repeating my work or reading it out loud, I prepare and improvise points from my writing into a more conversational format like an interview. I also keep my eyes open for visualizations that might better convey my message.

It’s in making the work more portable that I’m able to put a portion of it out for feedback. The simplest version of this is getting feedback on names—which ones did a friend remember? Or, which concepts or ideas from an interview stood out to listeners or readers?

Chris Kim is obsessed with these different areas, which he calls contexts. It’s important to him to find new contexts for his work. For example, he’s interested in building in a more modular way—saving melodies in their own track, saving drums on another, and sharing these individual elements with people to get their perspectives.

Similarly, when Louis Vuitton menswear designer Virgil Abloh was working with his team on designs, he wouldn’t be able to do it in person, so one of his team members would have to take photos or create digital versions so that everyone else could provide feedback through WhatsApp. They transferred the item of clothing from the context of the physical world, into the context of an image on WhatsApp. When producing a song, you need to listen to the track in your car, through your headphones, and through all the speakers you can.

Context is not just about different media or forms, although that certainly counts. It might be the same piece of work but shared to a new audience (sharing a link or image of your work at a subreddit they’re active in), or in a different place (I republish my article at Forge to Business Insider). Or, it might be taking that song you’ve produced and listening to it outside through a portable speaker or through your car stereo on a drive.

Be Specific when Asking for Feedback

When author Derek Sivers wrote every day for a month, he realized that there wasn’t enough time to take his writing to the standard he preferred and that he was emailing this subpar writing to tens of thousands of readers. He found it taxing to write something to his own standard every day, and he worried that he was emailing his audience too frequently. He stopped publishing every piece he wrote, only to release it publicly when ready.

You don’t need to release your work to everyone for it to be complete. Sometimes, you might realize that a version of it is complete—but you’re dissatisfied with it, or you want a second or third perspective on it. In situations like that, you can release it to a small group of friends or peers to get their feedback.

Asking for feedback on creative work is an incredibly difficult task. For starters, your family and friends will have an instinct to protect your feelings. Most acquaintances or strangers won’t know you well enough to share. And how do you know what, and whom, to trust?

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