Sharing your art can be terrifying. For me it’s been an ongoing struggle, but I have learned that the only remedy for that fear is to, in fact, share your art. I guess you could call it exposure therapy.
I used to think my art had to be super ingestible and complete before I shared it. But as you can imagine as a novelist, I don’t often have completed, finished work to pass around on a regular basis. My friends and family will ask, ‘how’s your story coming? What have you been writing about?’ It has always been hard to explain what I’m writing about because half the time I’m not even sure. Writing a novel is a journey, a maze of ideas that come out tiny bits at a time, or all at once in messy piles, and until they’re tidied up, I’m not too inclined to share them.
I was recently talking with a friend about C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien and their different approaches to allegory. After a little while, I started sharing my own thoughts on allegory and the pressure I feel to make magnanimous meaning out of the little world I’ve created for my novel. I ended up blabbering on about the different races of elves in my story and their beliefs in the divine. I want the world to feel authentic, the races to seem developed, and I don’t want to write just to push a message. So where’s the balance? How much meaning is enough? These are just a few questions among a thousand bouncing around my brain every time I critique my story.
But through talking with my friend it made me realize how much meaning was behind what I had already written, and how there was still so much space for a reader to invent and interpret what they wanted from it. My hope is to never force it. I just want the people in my story to expand and grow as naturally as possible. I used to think I had to agree with my characters, that they in some way needed to reflect me and my beliefs. As I’ve come to learn, that’s not necessarily true. Those kinds of worlds usually end up feeling very staged.
But I realized all this from processing through a peice of my story aloud with another person. Sometimes you just need a friend who will listen. And sometimes you just need to give yourself the space to share your art and hear feedback, even if it ends up being your own.
Talk about your characters, talk about your favorite artists, colors, sounds. Just talk! Create opportunities to let others inside your world. I’ve learned that more people than I thought feel the same fears and apprehension when talking about their art.
So cut yourself some slack, we’re all still learning.