joanne shih

lettering, illustration, design

Tips for Sharing Your Imperfect Work

art processJoanne Shih2 Comments

In my previous post, I shared my top reasons for putting your work out there, work that you feel is imperfect or not worthy of sharing with others. However, I'm well-aware that even if you agree with my points and want to share your work, there is still a very real gap between WANTING to do it and actually doing it. I know this because I experience it all the time! Inside my camera roll lives a graveyard of things I wanted to share at some point but didn't, oftentimes due to self-doubt.

So, today I'm sharing a few tips that have been helpful for me when it comes to sharing work that I initially felt nervous or unsure about sharing.

But first, let me say this: Putting your work out there, something that you've created (especially if you're using a new skill), takes courage and vulnerability. So if you're struggling with this and wondering if you're the only one who can't bring yourself to share your work/art, please take heart and know that it's difficult and doesn't come naturally for many people! I've found that it's like a muscle that I just need to exercise and strengthen - the muscle of being vulnerable and gutsy enough to put something out there that used to be only mine.

Alright.. now for them tips!

  1. For those just starting out, it can be helpful to first share with a few people you trust and ask for their opinion on sharing with a wider audience. Hopefully, this will boost your confidence to share with more people.
  2. Remember that your art != you. You are so much more than your art. It can be easy to get fixated on the idea that your art is an extension of who you are, but the more you can detach yourself from what you've created (once you've finished), the easier it is to share it. If you haven't read Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic, I highly recommend it -- in it she talks a bit more about not treating your art like your baby. Good stuff.
  3. When you're sharing, think about the people who love you, who want you to succeed, who will cheer you on for pursuing your passion, RATHER than thinking about the potential haters and detractors. When I'm nervous about whether or not I should post about a new thing I've tried, sometimes I imagine what my closest friends would say - they would say, "Why wouldn't you share this?? This is so great! You're overthinking it, Joanne!"
  4. Remind yourself of this: You are not for everyone. Not everyone is going to like what you make or share. I say this not in a "so toughen up and build up a thick skin, 'cause some people just aren't gonna like you!" kind of way (although having a thick skin certainly doesn't hurt). I'm saying it because once you realize you're not meant to please everyone (and that it's actually impossible to)... the pressure to create things that will appeal to everybody falls away and a wonderful freedom to create and share what YOUR heart desires takes its place.

The tips I've shared so far are largely about shifting your mindset or internalizing some truths and I know that takes time and considerable effort (I for one am constantly forgetting these things - hopefully sharing this blog post will help me practice what I preach!). If, like me, you've been an overachieving, people-pleasing perfectionist most of your life, don't get discouraged if it takes time (I'm talking.. years..) to internalize these ideas.

In the meantime, though, here are a few suggestions that are a bit more tangible and straightforward that you can put into practice immediately if you're feeling nervous about sharing your work!  

  1. Make an ironclad commitment with yourself (even better, do it with a friend for accountability!) to share a certain number of pieces or posts. For example, commit to sharing 5 blog posts or posting 10 photos of your art on Instagram. Don't let the feedback that you receive or don't receive on any individual piece sway your commitment. At the very least, you'll work out the muscle I talked about earlier and become stronger in that department! After you hit that number you committed to, only then let yourself evaluate whether you want to keep sharing or not.
  2. Intentionally post right before you have another activity/commitment where you will be truly occupied with something else (going to dinner, rehearsal, a place with no wifi, et cetera). The goal is to forget about posting so you don't go about wringing your hands, thinking, "OMG what have I just done," and thereby becoming a ball of self-conscious anxiety. It also helps to give yourself a little time and space from what you shared so that you're a bit more detached from it when you come back to it (which ties back to #2 above).
  3. Liquid - or alternative forms of - courage! Whether that's coffee or alcohol is up to you (if you're of drinking age that is)! I say this only half-jokingly because having a little bit of coffee or a drink actually has helped me on occasion; for me, the voice of "what if people don't like it???" honestly subsides considerably when I am caffeinated (or slightly tipsy).  Of course, your mileage may vary -- if drinking coffee only makes you feel jittery and anxious, or if having a drink leads to depressive thoughts... pleeeease find something else. Maybe for you, it's putting on red lipstick. Or wearing fun socks. Or going for a heart-pumping run. Whatever it is that makes you feel more badass and fearless, do that and then try sharing your art.

I hope this handful of tips and tricks help you as you think about sharing your work and that they give you the little push you may need to start or continue sharing! Any feedback is appreciated - and if you have any additional tips or suggestions for how to share imperfect work, I'd love to hear them.

To art-making and art-sharing,

Why Share Imperfect Work?

art processJoanne Shih2 Comments

The start of a new year is always prime time for setting new goals and identifying what you want to accomplish, improve, or develop in the year ahead. This year - amongst other goals (like blogging!) - I'm challenging myself to develop my painting and illustration skills further. While I still enjoy hand-lettering and hope to continue incorporating that in my work, I want to stop putting myself in a box when it comes to an artistic focus and really let myself explore. My ever evolving creative journey continues... 

One thing that I am grateful to have cultivated in the 3+ years of pursuing this creative career path is a habit of sharing imperfect and in-process work on my Instagram - as scary as it (still) is sometimes. Today I'm going to share the reasons why I do this, in the hopes of encouraging anyone who might be embarking on a new project or learning a new skill to share your work long before it's "perfect"!

My first "larger" gouache illustration that I finished two days ago - an 11x15" piece. Lots of imperfections and unintentional wonkiness. Learned a lot while doing this, mostly revolving around how little patience I have with myself when it comes to painting!

My first "larger" gouache illustration that I finished two days ago - an 11x15" piece. Lots of imperfections and unintentional wonkiness. Learned a lot while doing this, mostly revolving around how little patience I have with myself when it comes to painting!

So... why share that piece of art/writing/music/etc that you think needs so much work before anyone can see it?

  1. Baby steps are everything. If your goal is to eventually have your work out there, whether it's writing, music, painting, etc., you have to start somewhere. One of my favorite mantras at the moment is "Start where you are." It's rather obvious ("where else can I start?"), but let's be real: we often want to start somewhere that's about 100 steps ahead of where we actually are. By showing your work early on in your creative journey, you ground yourself in the present reality and it's much easier to build on that, rather than making art in a vacuum and waiting until a point where you are "good enough" to show your work. As a recovering perfectionist, I know I would be waiting for years and years before I considered my work "good enough." Which brings me to my next reason....
  2. You are your own worst critic. Often only we see all the flaws and imperfections of what we've made. Look at your work with a critical eye in order to improve, but don't let your inner critic deprive others from seeing your art. By self-determining that your work isn't worth sharing with others, you rob yourself from the potential joy of receiving encouragement from others (and the potential skin-thickening of receiving criticism - which in my experience happens far less frequently). In the words of Andy Warhol, "Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”
  3. Perfection is a trap. Don't fall for it! It's great to aim for excellence and to improve your skills, but if you're like me, aiming for perfection is incredibly paralyzing and often prevents one from even trying. One of the ways I combat falling into the perfection trap is by sharing things I know are not perfect. In doing this, it's almost like I'm giving myself a permission slip to continue making wonky things, because I see that I put my wonky work out there and *spoiler alert* I survived and I am still making art and the perfection police didn't come after me. (I'm still figuring out my writing style but one thing you can probably count on from me is melodramaticism.)
  4. It's a great way to document your *inevitable* progress which may in turn inspire others to begin. Seeing where you started is both encouraging for you, when you're looking back (yes, you will cringe at your early work but think about it this way: the more it makes you cringe, the more you've likely progressed in your art! .... or you are just really hard on yourself. Give yourself a break, dude!), and for others who may be just starting. I love when artists I admire post things that are imperfect or are works-in-progress, and I also love seeing where they started. No one is encouraged by seeing someone achieve perfection, from day 1, and then day after day after that. At least I know I'm not - if you are, please let me know in the comments :)
  5. Posting imperfect work combats the toxic nature of social media, where more often than not, posts are curated, picture-perfect highlights of others' lives/careers and leave you feeling like you're somehow behind on all aspects of life. It's refreshing to see things that are not that. If nothing else, I hope to continue posting things that are imperfect and real and not-all-put-together because personally, that's what I want to experience when I'm on social media.

Have I convinced you yet to share your imperfect work? I hope so! In my next post, I'll be sharing some of my tips for *how* to do this. If you have any questions or thoughts you'd like me to address in that post, leave me a comment below!