# Show your work

/Once upon a time, I had to take a truly difficult math class. I am pretty good at math, but differential equations was at least one level too far for me.

I had to pass the course to graduate, whether I understood the material or not. I found a tactic that got me just enough points on my problem sets and tests to squeak by: I showed my work in excruciating detail and prayed to the Gods of Partial Credit. Every sheet of paper I turned in contained as much math as I could cram onto it; not always the math needed to solve the problem asked, mind you, but lots and lots of math that was as close as I could manage. The graders could almost always find something I did that merited a point or two.

I graduated. Even more shockingly, I somehow learned a tiny bit of differential equations along the way (but don't worry, I have forgotten all of it over the years).

Showing my work turned out to be a good habit. Most writers and would-be-writers I know, myself included, are perfectionists. The short story is never quite ready to be submitted; the blog post is never quite polished enough to put up; the second chapter of the novel can't be written until chapter one has been edited again. That way leads to madness. And never completing anything.

I have learned, thanks to a heinous math class in college, that showing my work can pay off. People sometimes rather like even the piece that I thought was half-baked. Of course, people sometimes don't at all like something that I thought was great (and often they are correct). Any writer, myself included, gets neither the positive feedback we crave nor the opportunity to improve we need by keeping material locked away.

Show your work. You might at least get partial credit.