The baby who is beautiful to you might not be beautiful to everyone else.
You take a risk when you share your art with others. It’s wearing your heart on your sleeve. It’s like putting your baby on display. It’s not safe.
How much are you willing to risk to grow in your art? I’m not talking about money, but transparency. Vulnerability.
Last time, interior designer Kaysie Strickland said:
To me, the nerves are just part of the creative process.
It proves to me that I’m being vulnerable —
and I think my best work is done
when I really pour my soul into something.
Creativity is a risk.
It’s opening yourself up to the world
in hopes that they find it beautiful.
If what I create doesn’t resonate with others, is it a failure?
Do the numbers matter? Does everyone have to love it? Or just one other soul?
I would say NO to all these questions. Art can be self-expression. It doesn’t even have to be shared. And that doesn’t make it any less important. Because it’s yours.
But for those who believe they have something to offer and want others to benefit from it, there’s risk involved.
Allow me to share part of my writing journey as an example.
I’ve loved writing all my life. My teachers praised me over the years. I won an award for an essay in 8th grade and another one for a short story in college.
But I really wanted to write a novel. I’d already started one, inspired by the short story. Not just for myself, but for others to (hopefully) immerse themselves in. So I had to perfect my craft. But first I had to see if I had what it takes.
I attended my first writers conference and submitted my pages for critique.
This was going to be my defining moment,
determining my future course.
Was I going to write for others?
Or just relegate my writing to journals,
poems, and stories
for an audience of one? Myself.
Fortunately, my story chapter was well received. I felt encouraged to keep writing. I joined a writers group that spawned from the conference. We met twice a month to critique each other’s work.
That was a huge hurdle. At every meeting, I was putting myself out there. I felt like a target for poison arrows. Knowing what was coming, I’d sweat; my heart palpitated. We weren’t there to merely pat each other’s backs. We were brutally honest with our assessments.
But that was the most valuable part. That’s what made us go back to our computers and revise.
The most growth as writers occurred in the stretching.
And the stretching was painful.
We met for 15 years. During that time, the first draft of my story, All That Is Hidden, was born. And the second draft. Plus another novel.
I toughened up. I got to the point where I could
accept constructive criticism without wincing,
defending every word choice, or going home to cry.
I learned to take criticism like–pardon the cliche–water off a duck’s back.
My fellow writers were invaluable, but I needed professional feedback. Very scary. I chose one of the conference teachers. I sent off my story with a check.
But what if she didn’t like what I’d poured my heart and soul into?
The response was discouraging. My story wasn’t organized well. My character motivation wasn’t clear. The plot was riddled with inconsistencies.
But I loved my story. And I’d already poured hours and hours into it! I mean 1000s of hours spreading over a decade. Written in my “spare time” during the child-raising years.
I would not be derailed. I revised, following her suggestions. I got additional feedback from my writers group. Things definitely improved. I sent the manuscript to an agent.
He said my story was more episodic in nature, with little plot. He suggested re-structuring it, and offered to review it again if I made changes.
Deflated, I followed his suggestions. Months later, I sent the story back. This time he asked, “Why are you writing an episodic novel? It doesn’t do justice to the strong plot.” Arrggghhhh!
If anyone ever tells you that writing assessments are objective, he’s lying.
Back to the drawing board. Actually, the writing desk. I revised again. Then I sent the umpteenth draft to a North Carolina English college professor and literary consultant to check the accuracy of cultural details and dialect.
He was immensely helpful and encouraging—and loved the story. Which is saying a lot, because he was born, raised, and lived in the area of my story’s setting.
I made the novel as good as possible. I sent dozens of query letters to publishers and agents. Almost 100 over a couple of years. I got many requests for the manuscript or sample chapters.
That meant that I’d mastered the art of writing query letters! But no editor was willing to risk buying the manuscript of a no-name author.
However, I started receiving personal rejections with compliments instead of form letters, so I knew I was headed in the right direction. I actually obtained an agent but he was unable to find a publisher after six months when the contract ended. It’s difficult for first-time writers to break in.
Then I decided to self-publish (more on those pros and cons later). A few years after that, my book was picked up by Lighthouse Christian Publishing.
At that same time, I also won first place in a writing contest for the young adult (YA) novel I’d been working on: Summer People.
That’s still not the end of the story–no pun intended. But the point is: it’s scary to share something you’ve poured your heart into, especially at first.
But for me, the only thing that brought improvement
and eventual recognition
was going outside of my comfort zone.
And the only thing that pushed me outside the comfort zone was my passion for sharing my story.
That was worth it.
And the more I did, the easier it got. It’s still scary, but I don’t panic anymore. Or lose sleep.
What do you fear about sharing your own creations? How have you overcome that?
I’d love to hear from you!