Art is scary.
Anyone who has poured their soul into a piece of art knows that releasing it to the world in front of prying judgmental eyes is one of the most vulnerable experiences of an artist.
But in order for art to flourish, it needs to get out there.
Years ago, I played in a band called Rescue a Hero. We started inside a rehearsal studio where no one was watching. The guitars would set the tone with a simple riff, the bass would slowly creep in, and then the drums would soon take over. When everything was clicking, moments like these made us feel incredibly good. Somehow, we managed to meld them together into good songs.
As we got better, we played more and more gigs. The best gigs were always the ones when the band was hitting full stride and there was a connection to the audience. I can’t explain the natural high of sitting backstage after a great show. Everything felt lighter. Faces were lit with smiles. There were nights we would sit down for hours talking about a gig.
This has happened the other way around too. I’ve sat on the side of the audience as I watched my favorite bands perform on stage. One night, I watched Sheila and the Insects play a rare gig. I still remember being so inspired that all I wanted to do was fiddle with my guitar when I got home that night.
Art for yourself can be satisfying, but once you share it with other people, it has the potential to transcend further than you thought possible. Art is meant to be shared and to make other people feel. Art sitting alone in an empty room with no one to appreciate it makes for a sad piece.
When I speak of art, I’m talking about anything that was created out of nothing. This means that art can be a whole slew of things. Normally we acknowledge art as illustrations, drawings, music, photographs, but it can also mean business, farming, sport, etc.
With that in mind, here are reasons why you should share your art.
Overcome the fear.
Sharing your art is showing a piece of your soul to someone.
It’s only natural for your insecurities to pop up.
“I hope they like it.”
“It’s not as good as that other guy’s though.”
“I don’t even know why I’m showing this.”
“Why did I even post this?”
At our core, humans tend to have narcissistic qualities. This is especially true with anyone trying to create something of worth.
The good news is that it gets better.
The more you share your art, the less scary it becomes. You’ll grow thicker skin. You’ll find that putting your work out there is not as bad as you think. Try it. Share your art. See what happens.
If you share enough, you may even forget how scary it was.
Sharing your work is the first step towards overcoming that fear. In the beginning, most likely nothing will happen.
Climb out the void of nothingness.
You finally find the courage to share your art to people. Then what? The most likely scenario is… nothing happens. Unless of course, your grandma has Facebook then by all means shoot her that link.
Welcome to the void of nothingness. No one cares about you or your art. That is the hard truth. No one gives a damn about your drawing. No one wants to read your story. No one wants to listen to your music. No one wants to taste your food. It’s your job to find the people who care.
Reach out. Make a connection. Follow artists you like. Look for like-minded artists. Join contests. Talk to that bar owner to get a gig. Submit your work to the gallery curator for review. Send your photos to photography sites. Join food bazaars.
Get out there.
Find your tribe. These are the people who will rally behind you and your work. They will want whatever you produce. Treat them well and they will back you for life. How do you find them? By sharing your work.
In sharing your work, you’ll become a better artist.
Become a better artist.
When you share your work, it means you’ve put the hours in to become better at your craft. You aren’t sharing the same pieces over and over right? You always want to do better than the last thing you put out into the world, right?
The more your share your work, the more hours you’ve been putting in to your craft, which in turn means you are becoming a better artist.
The goal is to be so good, they can’t ignore you.
“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” – Steve Martin
The opposite route is to share your work only until it is perfect. Here’s a little secret, there’s no such thing as perfect. Nothing in this world is made perfect.
You will get better much faster when you share your art to the world. It will force you to come up with quality art every time. It’s a self-imposed pressure to get better.
I understand that you don’t want to share mediocre work. But as we’ve discussed above, most people won’t notice. Most people won’t care. The first time you share something, the most likely response will be… *crickets* …nothing.
The Beatles didn’t start out as a perfect band. They were not an overnight sensation. They played years in Germany inside crappy bars in front of uncaring audiences before going to America and hitting it big.
“In Hamburg, we would play for eight hours, so we really had to find new ways of playing. […] We got better and got more confidence, playing all night long. It was handy, them being foreign. We had to try even harder, put our heart and soul into it, to get ourselves over.”
– John Lennon
Share your work and put the hours in.
Motivation to put the hours in.
A few years ago, I decided to learn photography. After reading a few articles on how to get better, I concluded the best way to learn was to shoot as much as I could.
It didn’t take long to amass a collection of photographs sitting inside my hard drive. That’s when I started my Tumblr photography page. It has since died a slow death of no updates, but at the time, it motivated me to shoot even more than I was. I gave myself an arbitrary schedule of sharing one photo a day. That meant I was carrying the camera every day, taking as many photographs as I could.
That promise to share a photo everyday proved to be enough motivation to shoot as much as possible. That didn’t mean every photo was a beautiful piece of art, but it meant I was putting the hours in to get better.
The 10,000 hour rule, made famous in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, states that if you have dedicated practice for 10,000 hours (that’s about 10 years) then afterwards you’ll be an expert.
That’s a long time of dedicated practice. You will need motivation from many places. You’ll need help from friends and family. Your life will have to be structured around your practice. Any place you can get even a little motivation is needed. One place to get it is in the act of sharing it to the world.
The more you share your work to people who want to see it, the more people will notice. It starts with your friends and family. Then one day, if you become good enough, someone will make a genuine gesture to your art. It might be in the form of a “like,” a thoughtfully worded comment, or they might even buy something from you. When you finally get that, you’ll feel that first wave of satisfaction.
Although we may not admit it, we want our art to be seen. We want validation from other people knowing that we’ve placed so much of ourselves into a piece of art.
Whenever I write a piece that resonates with people, it warms my heart. Occasionally, I’ll meet someone who tells me they like what I wrote. I may not look it (playing it “cool”), but deep inside it’s one of the best feelings in the world.
I’m not writing literary art pieces. My writing is far from the best writing you’ll read today, but my art is about getting the thoughts in my head out to other people. It’s my hope that other people read it and act on it. If my writing can inspire someone to act, to do something more, then I’m in a good place.
That’s where I find my satisfaction.
Let People Find You.
Releasing your art to the world is a signpost that says, “I’m here.”
Believe it or not, people are looking for you. People know there’s more to life than their daily grind stuck in traffic. They want to feel something more. They are looking for you. Not you specifically, but they are looking for art to connect with; music to help them feel, illustrations to inspire, photographs to show them a bigger world, the perfect burger for the perfect burp.
Allow people to find you by sharing what you have to the world.
The more you share and the more you get better, there comes a tipping point. People will find you. When that happens, that’s only the beginning. Don’t stop reaching out. Don’t stop making art.
I’ll end with what inspired this whole piece of writing on sharing your art. What took me a thousand words to say, the master, Seth Godin only needed a few sentences.
“It’s tempting to sit in the corner and then, voila, to amaze us all with your perfect answer.
But of course, that’s not what ever works.
What works is evolving in public, with the team. Showing your work. Thinking out loud. Failing on the way to succeeding, imperfecting on your way to better than good enough.
Do people want to be stuck with the first version of the iPhone, the Ford, the Chanel dress? Do they want to read the first draft of that novel, see the rough cut of that film? Of course not.
Ship before you’re ready, because you will never be ready. Ready implies you know it’s going to work, and you can’t know that. You should ship when you’re prepared, when it’s time to show your work, but not a minute later.
The purpose isn’t to please the critics. The purpose is to make your work better.
Polish with your peers, your true fans, the market. Because when we polish together, we make better work.”
– Seth Godin (from his blog post called, “Show Your Work”)