The first step toward any creative endeavor is to of course do the work. However you can, with whatever you have. It’s only by doing something with your ideas that you’re able to explore them fully.
This means: putting the brush against the canvas, typing the 10,000 words, or pressing the shutter button on the camera. Whatever the creative work is for you.
Arguably more important than the work itself is what comes next: sharing what you create.
The value of sharing your work cannot be overstated.
Too often we shy away from sharing our drafts, our rough sketches, our concepts or ideas, or our finished work itself. We don’t share because we’re fearful; afraid we’ll be ridiculed, laughed at, or worse: ignored.
Regarding the fear of being ignored: I’m reminded of a quote from comedic genius Steve Martin: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
But how do we become good? How do we build ourselves up for generating good ideas consistently?
The answer lies in overcoming our fear of sharing our work and getting it out into the world to begin with.
1. Sharing helps you to learn
I’ve been sharing my work for many, many years now. I started as a logo designer when I was 16 and what I learned from the feedback and criticism of that work was what to do (and not to do). Despite not having a formal education in design, I learned enough from the feedback I received as a result of sharing my work that I now work as full-time as a designer at Facebook. Sharing helps you learn, and the more work you share, the quicker you’re going to learn.
2. Sharing helps you stand out
There are millions of people out there who can do what you do (or what you want to do). Sorry for the hard truth, but there are just too many people on this small planet of ours that are capable of the same things you are capable of.
Fortunately the number of those people who actually put in the work is only a fraction of the whole. The number of people within that fraction who actually share their work is smaller still. And the number of those who share their work and ideas often is even smaller.
Keep working your way down that funnel and you’ll come to find that it’s the person who regularly pursues their ideas, tries turning them into something more than an intangible thought in their head, then shares their work and voice…they are the ones that that get heard. Not because they are better than the rest (though they may be and often are), but because they’re the ones putting in the work and sharing it.
And another thing…
Unsurprisingly, those who speak up and share their work tend to come together naturally as a result. The doers and shakers look to those who consistently “do” and “shake.” As a result: the group builds off one another, improving their learning and capabilities further still. Those who show up are the ones who not only get attention, but who attract others who are doing the work as well, joining or creating a network of people who continuously “get shit done.”
In his spectacular book on the subject, titled Show Your Work, artist and author Austin Kleon tells us all we need to know about why sharing your work is so important:
“It’s not enough to be good. In order to be found, you have to be findable.”
How can you expect to be found if you leave no trace of your work, of who you are, or of your ideas?
To be good at any particular thing is to share your work, which leads to quick lessons, easier exposure, and the attention of others who are doing/sharing their work. We should not fear the negatives of sharing our work because the laughter eventually ends, the criticism dies out, people do move on. No, what we should fear is not sharing enough of our work.
I’ll end with this blurb, from designer Keenan Cummings who wrote:
“The bold [creative] knows that their technical ability is a commodity. The only truly unique thing they bring to the table is a voice and a point of view informed by their experience, ideas, and—most importantly—their curiosities. They know an idea cannot be optimized. There is no platonic ideal. They chase their own curiosities and try to align very real demands…with the desire to have [the work] inspire. They are not selfish; they are self-aware. They know their voice.”
To find your voice, share your work and share your ideas. Early, often, and always.