Creativity is often a solitary process, but sharing it isn’t. How can creative work impact the world if it is never shared? How do creatives learn to step out of isolation and onto the stage to show our work?
Much of the creative process happens behind closed doors. Creativity happens in the mind, in private. Just like the caterpillar in a solitary cocoon, creativity needs this period of incubation and development to fully flower. However, the caterpillar will never reach its full potential of it stays in its cocoon. Generally, creative people are comfortable with isolation. The problem occurs when it is time to step onstage and share the fruits of our creative endeavors. Most creative people want to share their work and make their impact on the world, but many people are uncomfortable putting themselves and their work on display for the world to see. So, why is it so scary and difficult to overcome this creative solitude to share our creations?
No one sits and watches me paint or write all day. Besides the fact that this would likely be completely boring (as my husband says to every invitation to keep me company in my studio), it is also potentially distracting to me. However the reverse side of the coin is that complete fulfillment from creativity does not come exclusively from the act of creation, but is consummated in the act of sharing.
Like many artists I’m scared to draw back the curtain and unveil my progress, but this is a necessary step in the creative process. I recognize that sharing my work, as difficult as it is, brings me as much joy as creating the work. Referring back to the caterpillar emerging from a cocoon, this is a vulnerable position, but it is also critical to development. The new butterfly develops strength and capacity to fly as it fights to emerge from solitary confinement. So, how do we as artists develop this same strength and fortitude to overcome the habit of self-inflicted solitary confinement when it comes to sharing our work? The simplest answer is to just do it, but so often I’m unable to make myself. I hide in my comfort zone. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out what was holding me back. I want to share my work, but I get so afraid to do it.
An epiphany occurred to me when a friend suggested that I disable comments from others on a social media page on order to avoid this fear. My gut reaction to this suggestion was that doing so would cut me off from all the feedback of others. The compliments and even the occasional constructive and honest critique. Then I struggled to justify myself as I thought about why I wanted feedback but was still saying I was scared to share my work. All of a sudden it hit me that my biggest problem wasn’t what others thought- though that can be scary too. But rather my obstacle was my own perfectionism. I wasn’t so much afraid that someone would tell me my work was bad as I was of knowing it was bad myself, or thinking that it wasn’t yet good enough to share. But waiting for all my work to be perfect and to measure up to my often-ridiculous standards of perfectionism, I was hiding behind closed doors and doing myself a disservice by not sharing it, even if it is still as of yet either unfinished or less than perfect. More importantly, pinpointing precisely what my problem was, helped me to begin to take steps to overcome it.
I’ve gone through this process of learning to share my work with my paintings and my art. I’m experienced enough to know how good I am and also how good I’m not. I know where I excel and where I lack. What skills are assets and where I still need work and diligent practice. I’m generally familiar with how my work is received, and it’s easy to put my painting on display instead of feeling in the spotlight myself. However, writing is still something I do largely behind closed doors. And it’s scary again to step onto the stage. But throughout this process of discovering what I was really afraid of has helped me to see my audience as encouraging and supportive friends who will help me overcome my self-destructive perfectionism. And each time I must draw back the creative curtain, I get stronger and it gets easier. Sharing my creativity is always worth the risk.
Are you afraid to step onstage? Do you know what is holding you back?