Sharing Our Creative Work With Others
In my "Roadblocks to Creativity" e-course, I ask the question:
"What's your first thought if someone hesitates before giving you their opinion about your creative project?"
One artist wrote: "When some one hesitates before giving their opinion of my work, I think it is going to be negative; I recently showed some work to my boss and her criticism was so harsh that I now won't show her anything, but the worse part is--it made me even more conscious of showing my work to others as well. She was going through some hard stuff at the time, so my timing was way off.
“ I now will show my work if it is something I am really sure of … or to someone that isn't so harsh. When showing some one else my work--if I get a negative response I take it as some thing against me personally. Not too smart."
I replied to this person:
"It's too bad that you had such a negative experience when you showed your work to your boss. It's great that you recognize that she was having a bad day, and that her response had more to do with that than the value of your work. But I hear some distorted thinking that now you can NEVER show her anything ("all or nothing" is a prime example of distorted thinking).
“I think you're absolutely wise to protect your fragile creative projects as they're being brought into the world. There are certain stages of a project when you really should choose very carefully who you share them with."
This correspondence got me thinking about the fragility and sensitivity of the artist soul, the seeming insensitivity of the "real world" and how to bridge the two.
Two of my creativity heroes, Julia Cameron and SARK, each have much to say on the subject.
Julia Cameron, in the chapter of “The Artist's Way” titled Week 12: Recovering a Sense of Faith, describes "Wet Blankets" as those people in our lives who dampen our creative spirit. She suggests that we "move silently among doubters" and that we actually craft lists of who will nourish and support us and those who are sure to act as "Wet Blankets." Then it's up to us to protect our creative dreams by choosing carefully who to share them with.
SARK, in the chapter of “Make Your Creative Dreams Real” titled Fabulous Fifth Month: Creative Dreams Support Systems, advises us to be proactive and that we teach our friends and family how best to support us in our creative work. She gives concrete suggestions about what to say and what to ask for. She also gives guidelines for looking outside your regular circle of family and friends and forming a "creative dream team" with other artists for the specific purpose of nurturing each other's creativity.
Julia Cameron also points out that a common self-sabotage mechanism can be running straight to a "Wet Blanket" when we've got something exciting (therefore scary) going on. I've done this myself.
It happens when one of my creative dreams is taking form and shape. This is when I get that feeling of being connected to the Universe, of receiving "divine" inspiration, of really being onto something that feels right for me AND in service to the world at the same time. It's exciting and it's also very scary.
I can take many paths at this point. One path that I sometimes choose is to immediately seek validation, reassurance and support. It's a lifelong habit of not quite trusting myself (and, really, not quite trusting the Universe, which is very silly of me!), and of needing something outside of myself to tell me it's ok (and that I'm ok).
I remember once when I was feeling excited, scared and on the verge of something amazing. I immediately reached for the phone, didn't choose carefully, and opened myself to feedback without requesting the specific type of feedback I was after.
When I was told the project wasn't ready, that I needed to do more research, that I shouldn't rush into it and that "this type of thing" hadn't proven to be successful for others, I was crushed and devastated (exactly what that self-sabotaging part of me wanted).
Luckily I am VERY stubborn and defiant (not always my best qualities, but in this situation they actually worked FOR me), and after a couple of days of licking my wounds I was able to build up my hope and faith in the project again, regardless of what that person said.
That project did see the light, and it is bringing success. It feels right for me AND it's serving the world.
Here are some steps to consider BEFORE reaching out and sharing your creative work and dreams – I'll be keeping these in mind as well!
1. Choose carefully. Think about people you've shared with in the past and what kind of responses you got. Think about how it felt to have the conversation and how you felt afterwards – did you feel like you couldn't wait to get back to creating something else or did you feel like hanging it up for good? If it's someone you've never shared your creative work before, imagine having the conversation and what response you might get. Choose the person who will build you up, not tear you down.
2. Consider the timing. The less formed the idea, the more "fragile" it is and the more important it is be supported in a non-judgmental and creativity-enhancing way. Are you truly ready to let someone into the process or would it be better to keep it to yourself for a while longer? Be very honest with yourself about this. Get still and quiet and listen closely for the truth when it comes.
3. What do you want? Again, think carefully about this and be honest. Do you want support and validation so that you can be re-fueled in your excitement of the project? Do you want a sounding board so that you can hear yourself think (talking to someone else can be a GREAT idea generator)? Or do you want to invite constructive criticism and suggestions for making the work better?
4. Ask for what you want! The other person can't read your mind and depending on their line of work and their personality type they may instinctively want to give advice, make suggestions or look for possible reasons why something might not work.
Many wonderful creative sparks have been extinguished by conversations that never should have happened. Don't let yours be snuffed out!
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