I’m sure I have mentioned before that writing is a very frightening, paranoid process. If not, let me tell you that writing is a very frightening, paranoid process. Frightening that what we are writing is actually not any good at all, that it’s been said before, that it’s grievously unoriginal and that we are almost offensively boring.
And that’s before we even have to share our work!
For many years (starting in about the 2nd grade) I would write only when I felt like I had some really brilliant idea, or when I was having fantasies about my life as a famous, hugely admired writer with a fabulous sweater collection and a fan club.
Then I’d come back six months later and reread what I’d written only to realize that it was about as revolutionary as raccoon poop and was ashamed of myself for at one point thinking it was quality writing.
Needless to say, I didn’t share it with anyone. Mistake #1.
But I tried to right this by continuing to read, to develop my own voice, to imitate the styles of other writers, to look for themes and patterns in their work. I wrote some very moody poetry, and I started sending work to two or three trusted friends for constructive criticism. (Rather, I sent it to them because I knew they would be mostly complimentary, out of love for me and my delicate self.)
After being sufficiently encouraged, I took some writing classes and started talking with other creators about their processes and their inspiration. I started following bloggers. And most importantly… I wrote.
It was largely not inspired at all. I wrote out memories, stream of consciousness, and little fictional scenes. As Anne Lamott suggested, I gave myself short assignments. I set the goal of writing a minimum of 350 words a day. I gave myself grace when I wrote just… absolute mushy trash. It was fine because no one read it but me. There was still some safety in it, you know?
I read one of Shauna Niequist’s posts that encouraged people to chase their passions and work towards goals, and all that stuff that she is qualified to say because she does stuff. Specifically, she encouraged fledgling writers to share their work…on a blog.
So I burned everything I had written and became a homesteader in Alaska.
Actually, I texted Robin and told him I wanted him to help me set a deadline by which to have a blog started, and to help me figure out a posting schedule. I was expecting maybe 3-6 months was a reasonable range. Robin was thinking “tonight!”
So “Tonight” it was. And Our Art and Soul was born. *cue inspiring soundtrack*
And it’s still so vulnerable and intimidating and I feel like I’m about to have a seizure every Tuesday when I realize that I’m supposed to post something Wednesday and my brain is absolutely out of commission. But then I push through that and write something. And I put it on the Internet. Because I need to get over myself. I’ve learned to extend grace to myself and to my work by honoring the process and just posting stuff.
I imagine that sharing your work is like having a baby (stick with me here.)
(Y'all knew an awkward analogy was coming, didn't you? That's what this blog should have been called : "Awkward Analogies and Soul.")
You have this idea inside you for a long time, and it forms and develops, and then one day, it’s born (baby, idea, painting, song, recipe, whatever.) And it’s a good thing. It might still throw up on your friends and keep you awake at night, but it’s already got everything it needs to be great, some day. I mean, imagine if no one let people hold their babies... “No! Don’t look at her! She won’t be finished for several years!”
And seriously, no one would mercilessly criticize your baby. Like, “Oh, still drools, I see. And what’s this, leg rolls? Pathetic.”
(Are you enjoying all my dialogue here?)
Share your work because it’s good for your soul, and because it might be for someone else’s as well. Share it because sometimes there are very few opportunities to be brave and this is one of them. Share it because vulnerability builds something very sweet into you and reminds you that you still have a lot to learn.
This extends beyond writing, too! Share your songs, your thoughts, your inventions, your sculptures, your visions for a business, your hopes for your Church, your personal journey.
And selfishly, share all this because I am nosy and want to know what y’all are making.