Why do we have an urge to share our work? (This is a rhetorical question, but if you have the answer, let me know!) For now, let’s agree that the urge to share the best of what we make seems to be part of the deal of creating.
Often it feels like you don’t have a huge amount of choice over what you make - it’s more like it chooses you. Comparatively, you have free rein when it comes to sharing your work.
Are you sharing work in ways that are meaningful and beneficial to you? Or are you flailing around, trying out whatever you see others doing, exhausted and terrified by the process?
Being strategic around sharing can help you reduce the feeling of risk and the emotional rollercoaster that often put people off sharing.
So many ways to share
I recently went to our local Zinefest, a festival for makers of small publications, stickers, artist books and DIY pubishing. I had a zine I wanted to share.
I made a total of $2, but luckily I wasn’t there to make money. I swapped my zines for a whole lot of cool creations made by people in my creative scene.
Zinefest for me is a fun way to connect with other local creative people, show something I’ve been making, enjoy their work and get a heap of inspiration. I have other work that I enter in competitions, work that I share on Instagram, and work that I send to literary journals.
These things are all different, with unique audiences, formats and possible outcomes.
Being clear on who I want to share work with (along with where, when, how and why) helps me to move ahead with it simply. It also reduces the fear of missing out, and the sense that I ought to be doing what other people are.
Beyond the need to share that comes with creating work, it helps to know what you want to gain from sharing. You may have different combinations of reasons for different parts of your creative practice.
There are a bunch of reasons to share your work:
to grow your career
to get work seen so that you can move on to new work
to get feedback
to connect with others
to be part of the conversation
to make sales
to grow your audience
to break into a specific scene
to experiment and see what happens
to get info about what different people respond to
to face your fears and develop your skills around sharing
Having a sense of what you stand to gain from sharing your work can help you to keep motivated. It can also help you to choose methods of sharing that will be most likely to get you the results you hope for.
What else to think about?
You might want to share your work with fans, friends, strangers, a pocket of the art world or other people with similar passions. You can share the finished products, or your process and story (especially via social media).
You might share your work online, at events, in competitions, on your website, or at a local group dedicated to your creative genre. There are so many options!
Why have a strategy?
Sharing takes work. It’s a risk. Your work could be ignored, criticised, or adored - all of which can be confronting. When you know what you hope for your work, you can be conscious about where you direct your energy.
This brings us to the question: What do you want your creative output to do in the world? What ways of sharing will most satisfy you and benefit your work? What do you - yes you - desire?
It is very common for people to have an ambition that is disconnected from what really lights them up. Maybe the status symbol amongst your friends is to win a particular prize. But would you rather be drawing portraits of pets and seeing them on walls all over town? If so, you’re probably wisest to focus on doing that.
Either the sharing itself (having the work experienced and responded to) or the possible consequences (opportunities and rewards) need to be meaningful to you. You’re the only one who can find out what that looks like.
Once you’ve work out strategically how, why, when, where and with whom you want to share, we hit the question of how to be brave enough to do it.
What are your fears and excuses around sharing? How can you safely, gently, slowly and sustainably move yourself beyond them? (Note: the fears may never go away but at least you can get to be afraid of new interesting stuff!)
If you don’t know where to begin, pick something simple you can handle and do that.
I first started making zines because I needed to get my poetry out into the world, and had no idea where to start. One zine fell into the hands of a small press publisher, and that’s how I wrote my first poetry collection. (This goes to show that although having a plan is awesome, flailing about can can also be startlingly effective!)
Being strategic about sharing your work makes the whole process easier. This frees up your energy to focus on making the work you’re excited about.