One of the most common fears around creative work (art, music, poetry, writing etc) is about sharing your work to others, and possibly being subject to criticism and ridicule. Here are some tips you can use to get over that fear of sharing your creative work.
Why do you experience fear around sharing your creative work?
We humans all have our social identities, our egos, and the want to be seen positively by those around us. We want to be liked, loved, appreciated, and valued. One of the safest and easiest ways of becoming all those things is to conform and follow all the rules, standards, and customs of the society around us.
Part 1: Conforming to norms and societal standards
Some of the most straight-forwards paths to take to become generally well-liked and respected is to:
- possess a respectable and high-status educational title and work title
- live in a respectable area in a nice place
- dress in a normal and common fashion
- act with our body language and actions in the ways everyone else is to
- have the same ideas, thoughts, and wants as everyone else
There is nothing wrong with wanting, achieving, or doing any of these things. I do them as well, to a certain degree. I am just stating my observations about what’s easy to do in order to be generally well-liked by others in society.
Part 2: Non-conformity and authentic self-expression
But once you start stepping out of those norms and customs, and create or do things that are not as normal, you are stepping out of that safe and comfortable zone of being generally well-liked and accepted. Everything that is the tiniest bit special and different about you and the things you output to the world, has the possibility of not clashing well with the general public.
Here’s where creative work comes into the picture. Creative work that is amazing, interesting, thought-provoking, authentic, or real, is usually not in the comfortable zone of normalcy. Great creative work often touches on subjects, topics, ideas, and visuals that you do not commonly see openly displayed in public.
Most likely you don’t start a first conversation with someone by speaking about:
- Pain you feel around some event that has happened
- Insecurities, anxiety, depression or other personal mental states
- Your deepest secrets, passions and wants
- Unethical or morally questionable actions you’ve done or want to perform
- What you love the deepest
- What makes you the most excited for life and existence
But these are the things that creative work often touches upon. How many songs, books, poetry or art pieces haven’t you seen that actually do touch or are all about these subjects?
This goes to show how great art and creative work cannot exist without also making the creator vulnerable to other people’s criticism and possible non-approval. Because to make a great piece of creative work, that actually touches on other people’s most inner beings, you also have to be in touch with your own, and be willing to display that to others. You can do this to different degrees of course, but any form of self-expression overlaps with this.
Therefore, it is so normal to feel scared to show your creative work and true expressions. For it is baring, shows you naked, exposed, open to being hurt and attacked. But it is also thrilling, exciting, and so fulfilling once you do it.
Methods: How to get over fear of sharing your creative work
There are thousands of ways you can get over your fear of sharing your creative work, but here are some of the ways that have worked the best for me.
1. Think: Will it kill me?
This is by far the most effective argument I use against my own fear regarding anything. I ask myself: Will taking this action kill me?
This leads to two outcomes
- Yes, it will kill me. Then I think: Well, if it does kill me, and I’m dead already, then I can’t even be sorry about it or feel any pain around it, because I’m already dead. So, I don’t really have a problem, do I?
- No, it won’t kill me. Good! As long as I’m alive I can fix anything and I don’t really have any real problems still.
So, either way, no matter if sharing my work kills me, or doesn’t kill me, I should still do it because I want to. Because no matter what happens, I don’t really have any true problems.
2. Just do it! Practice makes perfect!
Anytime we do anything for the first time, we experience fear around it because it’s new and our brains don’t know what to expect. But with every repeated action, that action becomes less and less scary.
We teach ourselves that we will survive this as well. It hasn’t killed us in the past, and it won’t kill us this time. (Of course we technically could die from whatever, but that’s not the point here).
My point is:
Just do it! Do it, do it, do it! Just put it out there! You can be scared while you are doing it, it’s okay. You can also regret it and delete it later, which is okay too. But just do it already. Share it. Share your work. Click on that button.
Here’s how my usual thought patterns goes to sharing something for the first time:
- Okay, I acknowledge that I am having feelings of fear.
- I know this fear is actually just chemical reactions in my brain. How unimportant really.
- So, I want to do this thing really badly, but there’s some chemical reactions going on in my animal brains, so I won’t do it? No! That’s no way to live.
- Will it kill me? (Back to the earlier point). Probably not, and even if it did, then that’s fine because I’m dead and won’t have any problems.
- So, I should do it, right?!
- Yeah! Do it! Just do it! I can regret it afterwards if I want to and just delete my post later.
- *Proceed to upload my work on whatever social media platform or website*
And it feels so good to actually do what you want to do! As soon as you’ve done it, the fear will probably melt away, and you will wonder why you even were so sacred.
3. Create for higher values (Instead of for your ego)
I think that a lot of fear surrounding sharing creative work depends on the reasons for why you created the thing in the first place, and what you want out of sharing it.
Creating things for ego-gratification
If you create something for ego-gratification it means that you create it because:
- You seek compliments and attention from others to feel better about yourself
- You have an ego image of yourself that you want to have gratified (e.g. “I am a good artists”)
- You do it because you want to look cool (social respect and gratification)
These reasons are to make your ego feel better. And it is also a not so good breeding ground for authentic creative work, imo. It will also make you more sensitive to other people’s opinions about your work because it’s not really about the work, it’s about you wanting compliments and positive comments. You have already before you shared your work, made up a list in your head about what you want out of it, and so if you do not reach up to that, you won’t feel good.
Creating things for higher values
Instead, I’d suggest:
Create things for higher values: Create things in order to give value, beauty and love to others. It is not about you or your ego, it’s about connecting, being authentic, and adding value to the world around you.
If you create art and other work for higher values, you are automatically separing your work from the need for ego-gratification. You are not creating things and sharing them to stroke your own ego, you are doing it in service for others. To provide more value, beauty, authenticity, and good things to the world.
Then, only good things can come out of you sharing your work. Because even if not a single person likes your work, then there has been absolutely no harm in sharing it. But even if one single person gets some type of value from your work, then it has been worth creating it and sharing it. And that may happen immediately, or long after you’re dead, but if it does happen, then you’ve only done the world good by creating and sharing.
And this is what I really advocate for. Creating things feels so good when it is done for the service of others, for the good of others, and not to stroke your own ego. Of course, creating good things and getting compliments will in turn give your ego a well-deserved stroke (lol), but it’s not the main focus. It’s just merely a consequence of you showing up in a good way to the world.
Nowadays, I share most of the things I create everywhere: design, art, writings, photography and etc. And even when the things I create turn out bad or ugly, I still share it for the laugh of it, or to share about the challenges I’ve been through and have learned from.
Things were very different though, when I first began sharing my creative work. I was the exact opposite. I waited years before even posting a picture of any of my art publicly, and when I did, I remember I was so nervous I could almost puke. I also did it anonymously, not telling any of my friends or family that I had began doing it. I was so scared. I was mostly scared of getting bad critique, hate comments, and that people whom I know in real life would find my account and talk behind my back saying things like “Oh wow, look at her, she think she’s good at something, but she’s actually really bad LOL”. Which, of course, never happened.
But with practice, from doing it again and again, for years now, that fear has slowly dispersed. I do still get nervous sometimes though, especially when I share something for the first time, or when I venture into a new creative field that I’m not as confident in (For example when I went traditional art to digital design. Or from digital design to trying to create futuristic graphics. Or lately, when I went from design to writing; and so it goes).
Most recently, I got a bit nervous and scared when I shared about this blog for the first time on my personal Facebook page. I think I was worried about what old classmates and acquaintances would say about my writing, but nothing bad at all came out of it, but rather the opposite. And now, I’ve overcome that fear as well.
I guess the point of telling this story is that it’s normal to be scared of sharing your creative work. Most people are, especially in the beginning. But you just have to keep doing it, practice, and overcome your fears and worries little by little.
From these experiences, I’ve also learned how important and valuable it is to show support and love to others that share their creative work publicly. I do not shy away anymore of giving praise whenever I see it fit, and support others with a like or comment. It is not hard, and does not take much from any of us to show each other support, and yet it’s so easily overlooked. I do it to friends, strangers, and celebrities. We’re all human after all, creating, sharing, building something together.
I wish you all the happy creating and hope you can take these tips and overcome your fear of sharing your creative work to others!