The act of creating is an incredibly personal and gratifying experience. I have found that fulfilling my creative needs and desires is an important part of my growth. Allowing myself to write, colour, paint, or journal when I need to, gives me the space to explore my genuine emotions and push myself to refine my skills so that I can, if I choose, share my work.
For a long, long time, I never shared my work with anyone. The fear that accompanied the thought of publishing my work, asking for feedback, or expressing my innermost thoughts to someone else was paralysing. Even to this day, the thought of sharing my creativity can sometimes feel like I’m walking through a vulnerability minefield — one false step and I’ve revealed too much and now it’s out there for everyone to see and judge.
I remember the first time I shared my writing. I was participating in an Internship with The Mentorship, and asked to write three articles that were to be published online. I embarked on this project with trepidation, but also with great happiness and excitement. I still remember the anxiety I experienced before I received the very first round of feedback on one of my pieces. But it was well worth the initial fear I felt because it was through the process of writing, receiving feedback, editing and finally publishing that I suddenly felt, for the first time in my life, that I was a good writer. That was something that I had never acknowledged before, and up until that point, I had never given myself the opportunity to hear it said to me.
The truth is, fear is the best friend of both vulnerability and creativity. It follows me on any journey I feel I need to take with my writing. I think it’s my brain’s backward attempt to try and protect me from what many of us face every day – criticism and judgement. It’s one thing to sit behind a computer screen writing pages upon pages of words that will never be read and scribbling in a journal that never leaves my room, but it’s a completely different thing to actively share my work with the world, to exist boldly and out loud.
For a while, I just thought I would never share anything. It’s an easy option to teeter along the edge of what our souls scream out for; what we wish to share with all our hearts, the stories we want to write, the things we want to say, the dreams we want to chase. I think people can be successful in doing this because, well, they do it all the time. It’s a form of settling – settling for the thing that’s kind of like what we want but not exactly it, because it’s not as scary from a few hundred yards away. If we were to lose it or get judged for it – well then at least we weren’t baring every single last strand of our soul in the process because that would’ve sucked.
Ted Talk sensation and expert of vulnerability and shame, Brene Brown, has spoken widely on the power of vulnerability and her research has concluded that vulnerability is intrinsically linked with love, joy and belonging. She has written in her book Daring Greatly:
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
If you’ve been thinking about sharing your work online or with friends and family but haven’t felt ready or have been holding back, there are a few things you can do to help you dare greatly, as Brene Brown would say.
The first is to acknowledge there is no creativity without vulnerability, even if we are trying to hide from it or take shortcuts there is always vulnerability involved when we express ourselves. Finding the courage to not only push past the fear that always accompanies creative endeavours but also acknowledge that fear is present for a reason has been an important revelation for me.
You can acknowledge this fear in lots of different ways. The most empowered way I’ve stumbled across is Liz Gilbert’s approach. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the iconic memoir Eat, Pray, Love tackles the problem of fear in the creative process in a practical and amusing way. In her book Big Magic, she tells the reader how she has made a “welcoming speech” for fear when she is about to begin a new creative endeavour. It goes:
“I understand you’ll be joining us because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting—and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must…There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still—your suggestions will never be followed.”Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (2015)
The second thing you can do is understand that there is an added layer of courage involved in getting to know your fears and letting them accompany you. As Gilbert details, under no circumstances should fear ever be in control of the journey. The creative process is too sacred to be deviated by something as primal and manipulative as fear. So, if fear is the one in control and is the main reason you aren’t putting yourself out there when deep down you want to be, then know you are not alone, and that many people before you have brought their fear along with them, but not let it hold them back…so you can too.
The third thing you can do is simple…just bite the bullet. Start by showing it to someone who you know is interested in what you’ve created or will support you no matter what. Then slowly build up from there. You’ll be surprised that it does get easier as you keep going. You’ll grow a thicker skin and start to take the criticism less personally.
Of course, all of this is easier said than done. A bunch of inspiring metaphors and pretty words from people that are already successful can be motivating, sure, but the actual work is going to come down to what we do from here. From the way we honour our processes and the final product; the way we show it to people who will understand and benefit from it; when we show it to others who won’t get it and our decision to smile anyway because we aren’t creating to please everyone.
Negative or positive, the very act of creating is honouring our innate need as humans to tell stories and make art that matters. As Liz Gilbert says: “Creative living is a path for the brave.”
If you’re interested in sharing your work or being published, check out our Get Involved page and pitch us an idea! The Graduate’s Guide is all about championing graduates, jobseekers and creatives, sharing their experiences and building a supportive community.