Sharing Your Art

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.

9 thoughts on “Sharing Your Art

  1. Reminds me of a conversation I had recently about my own writing. Generally what happens when I talk about what I’m writing about is that people are much more interested in my earlier works because I’ve spent so much more time talking about them and have, therefore, narrowed down the conflict into a short blurb I know from experience people like to hear.

    Every time I’ve shared the blurb of my first ever “novel” people have either outright asked me if they could read it or strongly implied that they wanted me to let them. I’m always like “No way! I wrote that when I was 15. Haven’t revised it since. It’s horribly written, extremely preachy, and slow paced. My recent work is much better.” They never believe me.

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    • That’s amazing, haha. Yeah I hear you on that. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m letting people read stuff of mine that’s garbage. I warn them, but they want to read the unedited, unrevised versions of stories I conceived years ago. What do I have to lose?

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      • Oh, I actually never let anyone read that particular story. I let them read something newer instead. Not even I can manage to read all the way through it. I very well may rewrite it though if dystopia ever comes back in vogue or space novels remain popular.

        You’re right though, in the future I should consider just giving them the prologue, or better yet the horrible, lengthy “poetry” that comes before it. It will be hilarious to watch them try to be nice to me when what they really want to say is that its one of the worst things they’ve ever read. 🙂

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  2. “It has always been hard to explain what I’m writing about because half the time I’m not even sure.”
    So glad other writers have this experience! Sometimes I get asked that question and I just flap my jaw, and people act like I must not really be writing at all. Good luck to you!

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  3. This is just a thought your article prompted me to have but perhaps it is the sharing that makes your art more authentic.

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  4. I think one of the most difficult things to do in writing is to share your process. It isn’t so much that we fear our work will not be understood, or not be clear enough,
    or “authentic” enough, but that our particular process won’t be understood; how we approach what we are trying to accomplish in our writing. I don’t consider myself an “artist”, only a writer, a workman in words (and a poor one at that) but I fear my process won’t be understood and that I will be taken for a “diletante”. I know this fear is foolish because it isn’t necessary to have one’s “process” understood, only the work, the end product of that process. Still, I cannot bring myself to share more than these few words with another who, quite possibly, might understand. -S-

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