Note from Andy: Massive thank you to Zoie Holzknecht for sharing this guest post with us.
“Thoth, the Egyptian god of learning and writing, is sometimes said to have created himself through the power of language.”
I read this statement on an artist’s depiction of the ibis-headed god recently and it got me thinking about my own creative power.
Creativity for me is a solitary endeavor and is a necessary part of self-care for my introverted nature. My experience is that I need to make creating a priority in my life to find my balance and to define myself in a world that seems to be pulling me in many different directions at once. And just like Thoth, I am also “creating myself” through my artwork.
It is not that I am the sum of the end products of my creative sessions, but that the act of creating brings me closer to the person that I wish to be. This is because in those moments of making there are many questions to be answered.
There are simple questions like “Do I prefer red-red or orange-red?”, and deeper questions like “What story is emerging and what story do I wish to tell?”.
Creating helps me to understand my preferences better and it helps me accept mistakes and missed turns and see them in a different light. Over time, creating helps me to love and respect myself more.
And while I create first and foremost only for myself, I have found that sharing what I have made (the story) and what I have learned (the process) has its own creative power that can have deep and lasting benefits for both others and myself, sometimes in very unexpected ways.
But let’s face it, creating anything ourselves has its own challenges. And sharing our creations with other people can seem like really risky business. So instead of seeing “sharing” as a gateway into fear and danger, let’s break it down to some tiny steps that can change the scenery to look more like a pathway towards our own heart and a way to send little more light out into our world.
Why would we ever want to share something we made in the first place? Why should we face the “fear” of rejection?
I’m sure there are as many different answers to this question as there are people who share but here is mine: Sharing allows a creation, whether it’s a poem, a tour of a back yard garden, or a hand-made pizza, to have another reality besides the one that it’s maker gave to it.
When I am allowed to hear another’s reaction in response to my sharing, I am allowed the opportunity to expand my own inner world by adding their experiences to my own. I don’t have to agree with everything (or anything) I hear, but I feel richer for the small act of community that the sharing and response has offered. And most often what I find is the humbling and desperately needed message that I am not alone.
But as we agreed, sharing is risky, and it’s not always the right thing to do in every situation.
So when we decide to share, how do we manage the perceived danger that comes with sharing?
Again, I can offer what trial and error has taught me in order to minimize my own risk. But I still always feel the inner hesitation beforehand, and the strong tingle of dread immediately after I have committed to the share button. And if this is you, too, then you are not alone.
YOU Can Decide What (And What Not) To Share
The first thing I do is decide what to share. Work that is close to my heart, for example work involving techniques I am still in the process of learning, work that is not yet completed, or newly completed work that tells a very personal story, are all on my list of things I do not share widely, if at all. These are not yet “safe” creations for me to let loose in the world at this point in my life and experience level.
Work that doesn’t have my heart and story strongly attached to it, like a painting used as a color test of different red and red-oranges, is definitely on my happy to share list. The list also includes work that does have a strong and personal story attached to it, but only those which I have already spent time learning from and now feel stable and grounded with my own responses to them. At this point I have also let time and other newer work weaken that once delicate heart-string connection between the work and me so it feels less risky to share it.
YOU Can Decide Who (And Who Not) To Share With
Once I have decided to share my work, then I am also very careful about who I share with. I start slowly with maybe one or two of my right-kind-of-people and I sit with that and their reactions before venturing out to a still limited but wider audience (like the wonderfully supportive Haven community). After that I might choose to share in an open forum like Instagram. At this point in my relationship with the creation, a random (but in fact extremely rare) negative comment by a stranger will be drowned out by the positive and trusted comments of friends and helpful communities.
It is sad, but often those closest to us such as members of our family are not always the best options to share with.
If you know that your family member doesn’t really understand your poetry, your garden, or your choice of pizza toppings, and you know they do not possess that rare sensitivity required to see what you really need as you are sharing, then they probably need to be removed from your list of options for the one or two right-kind-of-people. Or at the very least, they need to be asked for only specific types of feedback with explicit boundaries and supplied questions.
Set Boundaries and Expectations
Feedback boundaries are a great thing to set at the outset of any sharing format. It will help you to learn what you would find most beneficial to hear (what do you need from the sharing, what will help support you and help you grow) and it will give the viewer a chance to contribute to your well-being and growth by knowing what and how they should respond. If you have limited your audience, then they desire to give you what you need just as much as you want to receive it.
If you are not in a place to safely accept a critique, no matter how helpful it might be or gently it might be given, there is nothing wrong with letting your audience know that…“Hey, I just finished this new pizza recipe and I’m really excited about it so please just celebrate it’s existence with me!”
If you are ready for more critical feedback then you can still define the type of feedback you need, “I’m exploring how I see a bunch of different shades of red. Please let me know what any of the shades in this composition say to you.”
You support both yourself as a creator and your community by setting helpful boundaries.
I may never know how sharing my creations might touch another or how it might be interpreted, but I know that others’ creations, even a simple sentence included on a drawing of an Egyptian god, have touched mine in ways the maker never intended.
I also know that if I choose not to share, then that chance encounter will never happen, and I may deprive myself and others an opportunity to see beyond the light we currently carry.