Sunday, 4 March 2018

How To Overcome The Fear of Sharing Your Creative Work

Oh, the hours I have wasted feeling anxious over sharing creative work.

I would sit in my university workshops, clammy hands holding onto my latest piece for dear life, petrified that a peer would read my work that week and wonder how I got on the course in the first place. In reality, we would all share our pieces, give pointers, sure, but mostly just pat one another on the back for trying something new. No one cracked out their magnum opus at 9am on a Monday morning, no one, but they sure-as-shit were bound to in my anxious mind! I often wonder how different my university experience would have been if I didn't feel like throwing up every time I had to allow a second pair of eyes to read my writing but that's a different post for a different day. 

Sharing your creative work is part of the process, it's what makes it more performative than personal, and by doing so you can often reap many rewards. During my 8 years of creative blogging, however, I've had a ton of messages from readers saying that they would love to be able to share their work but they're too scared to for XYZ reasons. They're afraid of rejection. They don't think they're legit enough. They think they have nothing of note to offer. Other people already do what they do at a high(er) level so why bother?! And, pals,  that's kind of devastating when you think about it. 

And so, here are my tips for how to overcome the fear of sharing your creative work. 

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Do you want to share it?  
Are you stalling because it isn't actually something you want to share with the world? In the age of social media and personal blogs, we are all used to sharing our ideas and creating with shareable content in mind, but let's not forget that it's also a-okay to create just for you. Write in a journal to be read by your eyes only, create a photoset to hang on your bedroom wall and nowhere else, design something meaningful to you. There's no pressure to share your creations with anyone if you don't want to. Creativity is just as valid and important behind closed doors. 

Reframe your fear. 
I put the question of creative anxiety to my readers, because you're a wise bunch, and Victoria brought up an interesting point about delving beneath the fear. She suggests that fellow creatives 'figure out the root cause' of fear because that way you can work on those feelings and reframe them. Of her own experience she says, 'In my case, fear stems from rejection and a lack of recognition. The fear of people having a negative view of me because of my art or believing it to be worthless and not liking it. It stops me posting altogether. Since acknowledging this as my main concern, I try to create and share without expecting anything in return. Just simply sharing my art for myself. And I find that it has helped immensely'. 

Accept that not everyone will love your work. 
When I was just starting out as a creative, there were many times where I refused to share my creative work because I was scared that people wouldn't like it or wouldn't understand it. I now share some of my work and grin and bear it when my family think that the poem that I've written about heady summer love is actually about boning. You can read melt for yourself, if you'd like.

Over the years, I've come to realise that not everyone is going to be your biggest fan. There are countless creatives who produce work that I don't necessarily connect with. Does that mean they should stop creating altogether? No. Are there still plenty of people that do enjoy what they do? Of course! 

Creative art forms are incredibly subjective. You don't need to please everyone. You certainly aren't making it for everyone. You're going to feel the most fulfilled if you enjoy what you've created, regardless of how people respond to it. 

You're probably your harshest critic. 
No one cares about your work as much as you do. They just don't. You're your own biggest fan and your harshest critic, so cut yourself some slack. Give yourself some credit! 

There's a place for you and the things you create. It doesn't matter how many people have come before you. 

Start a group with like-minded people. Or, share with people that you trust.
If you have other creative people in your circles, consider setting up a group, be it virtually or in real life, where you can discuss your latest projects and get some feedback. You could also put a shout out online for like-minded people to join you. Otherwise, you could start by sharing your work with people that you trust.

I would send my poems to close friends so by the time they found their way elsewhere I felt confident in them and had already exposed myself to the vulnerability of sharing. 

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Celebrate workshopping as part of the creative process.
Workshopping is such an important part of my creative process and yet it's so easy to bin it because it can feel uncomfortable at first.  No one, in a workshop setting, is going to say 'this piece is worthless and you should give up'. They're, most likely, going to tell you what they appreciate about it, asking questions to further understand its context, before communicating ways in which they feel it could be worked on in order for it to be more well-rounded. Workshopping is often a key tool in shaping and improving creative work going forward and it can help you see your work in an entirely new light.

If welcoming comments, praise, and constructive criticism is part of your process, you'll soon grow less fearful of it. 

Take a class or attend an 'open mic'.
If you're lacking confidence with regards to your abilities, attending a class may be what you need. Look for local courses or, alternatively, head to skill-sharing sites for online guidance. 

If you're confident in your abilities but not confident in sharing them, go to the equivalent of an open mic night for your particular area of creativity. Perform at a local gig, take your wares to a craft fair, showcase a painting at an exhibition, etc. Sharing work outside of your immediate circle may actually be easier for you to do. 

Consider the worst case scenario.
When it comes down to it, I think it's sometimes best to address your fear head on because, within this context, the worst case scenario is usually a little bit ridiculous. What would the worst case scenario of sharing your work mean? 

A stranger may communicate that they didn't like one piece of your work? And?

Granted, for some people, particularly those from groups that experience regular oppression, sharing creative work can often mean opening themselves up to unwarranted confrontation or commentary, and that's a worst case scenario that should be taken much more seriously. 

Think about your wider goals.
What do you want from sharing your creative work? 

A book deal? A brick-and-mortar or online shop? A stint in a gallery? Sharing could be a means to an end and a way to achieve your wider life goals. It's, therefore, most likely worth it.

Go for it! 
It's very easy to overthink the creative process so, in some cases, the easiest and most productive thing to do is to bite the bullet and see where it takes you. 

Share it with one person, share it with a select handful, or share it with the world. Once you've done it once, do it again, and again, and build up your confidence. The more you do something, the more natural it may begin to feel. Take off the training reigns and pad about the place!

If you were to ask a room full of creatives whether they have ever felt anxious about sharing their work, I'm pretty sure that they would all raise their hand. It is nerve-racking, it does make you feel vulnerable and, for some, it can open up a world of confrontation that they don't deserve or need.

It can, however, be one of the most fulfilling parts of the creative process so, if you've been feeling anxious, I hope this post has gone some way to help you work out how to overcome the fear of sharing your creative work. If you end up sharing something as a result of this post, do send it my way so I can cheer you on from the sidelines! 

p.s You may also be interested in my post on How To Get Rid of Creative Anxiety.



  1. Needed this today thank you :) It's funny but when I was younger and less mature in my work I used to love sharing it because it was about the achievement of creating SOMETHING as opposed to the quality of the product. Now that I'm developing as a writer and as a painter, sharing my work has higher stakes because I've worked harder at it and believe myself to be better at it. But I try to remember to take that pressure off and focus on sharing the act of creating, rather than thinking too much about what people will think of the creation itself.

    F L Y N N

    1. Glad to be of help <3

      YES! Always focus on the work itself - other people will come into play later.


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