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,
Joanne