When Do You Share Your Creation?

TAKEAWAY: Creatives face a difficult decision as they decide when to expose their creativity to a commenter or collaborator.

How do you know when to let your toddler play on the jungle gym with the other kids while you stay seated on the park bench?

Just as a new parent is tempted to lock her child away from the world, a creative can feel protective of the creative output she’s nurturing. Many creatives protect their children throughout their development; the stereotype of the solitary artist isn’t a complete myth.

But many creative works at some point are placed in other hands. That manuscript has to be edited. That musical composition has to be performed.

Even before those steps, there can be sharing of one’s creativity with another. It could be full-on collaboration, which can lead to wondrous results. “Live and Let Die” is a great song, but most would argue Paul McCartney‘s greatest work came before that tune’s birth, when he collaborated with John Lennon.

Even if it’s just soliciting a bit of advice from a friend or colleague, a creative can benefit from an objective point of view. What would hold a creative back?

Fear of criticism, for one. And fear of losing control of the nascent work itself.

That second fear doesn’t have to come to fruition if the creative times his sharing well. Take Tim Burton. I had the pleasure of seeing the exhibition of his works — twice — earlier this year at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. I was struck by correspondence posted between Burton and an artistic collaborator over the wording and staging of Jack Skellington’s introductory musical number in The Nightmare Before Christmas.

The collaborator was pretty direct with Burton. He offered rewritten lyrics of the song. He suggested substantive changes in the narrative of the scene, from more distinct transitions in Jack’s introspection to adjustments in Jack’s movements and vocal tone. As a fan of the movie who has seen it several times, I realized Burton incorporated just about every suggestion given, and wisely so.

Yet. Jack Skellington was still a product of Burton’s imagination. The idea of a Pumpkin King bored with his reign? Burton. The iconic image from that musical number, with Jack on the curving outcropping, contrasted against a full moon? Burton.

A creative who is comfortable with the core of her creation should open herself to feedback from other creatives, knowing that she can retain the essence of her originality even if the work itself ends up being altered.

As to the fear of criticism? Well, the definition of criticism does not inherently imply negativity, and even a criticism taken as an attack can have validity. Again, if the creative is confident enough in her output to open herself to collaborative guidance, she should have the confidence to withstand harsh assessments.

A confession: It’s easy for me to say. In fact, I’m writing this post now as advice to myself, because I’ve been struggling with sharing elements of my latest creative work with others. Is it ready? If I allow input now will it still truly be mine? Do I feel it’s strong enough to withstand review?

What if someone hates it?

Ultimately the creative needs to decide in his own heart when the time is right.

Do you have an example of when and how you knew the time was right to share your creativity? Are you holding something back now and wondering if you’re right to do so?

About Patrick Ross

I'm the author of Committed: A Memoir of the Artist's Road.

12 Responses to “When Do You Share Your Creation?”

  1. Many artists are not strong enough in their own sense of their work’s value to handle criticism. And no matter what it is, somebody or other is not going to like it and may make destructive and ignorant remarks about it, hard for the thin-skinned to tolerate.

    If that difficulty is overcome, the artist can then accept useful criticism and apply it, while disregarding comments of no value.

    At the point the artist considers the work finalized, the artist needs to assimilate the artwork himself or herself. Each piece carries its own meaning, which may only reveal itself to the artist after completion.

    Once the meaning is assimilated, the artist can easily release the work to its future path and turn attention to the next artwork being created.

  2. Very insightful! I find that I have no fear of criticism from strangers but don’t want to get it from my husband.

  3. Lexi, thank you for that thoughtful comment, very helpful. I do wonder if insecurity is on some level inherent with many artists. I’ve known some phenomenally accomplished and successful creatives who still were full of doubts every time they put something out there. Of course, the fact that they were successful spoke to the fact that they did in fact put those works out there.

    prodigalharlequin, I hear you! I learned not to show really rough drafts to my wife, it puts her in a real pickle. Most of the time I end up changing or taking out stuff that would have given her pause had she seen the rough draft. Michael Swanwick told me when I interviewed him this summer that he only shows his wife chapters now after he’s finished, so she’s not put in a position to be able to edit. He does that for her sake! https://artistsroad.wordpress.com/2010/11/10/why-we-need-to-set-our-goals-high/

  4. I think the timing of sharing creative work also has to do with trust–as in trusting the people with whom you are going to share it. I have a writer’s group I meet with weekly and I trust that they have my best interest at heart from prior experience. And even then, I guard my work until I know it is strong enough to withstand some critiquing. And that comes from personal experience of knowing when I feel comfortable enough to let it out in the world. Great post.

  5. Thanks for that insight, Charlotte!

    I was part of a great writer’s group a few years ago, we probably provided better moral support than editing wisdom but it was great to have a complete trust circle. I’m returning to FT writing in the new year and need to see how I could find another group like that.

    • Patrick, you can create a group yourself! ๐Ÿ™‚

      I am part of a Mastermind group and highly recommend it. Although you don’t all have to be in a similar profession, it turned out that all four of us in our Mastermind group were at least artists on the inside (and who’s inner artist has now been released from being part of the group). It has grown to be the most supportive group of people I could have imagined. We have been together three years, and I can bring *anything* to them with the knowledge that they have my back.

      We created the group ourselves, it wasn’t already established and then I stepped in. I find that to be FABULOUS … because we as a group created it to be just the way we wanted.

      If you are interested in Mastermind groups and how to put one together, here is a “how to” guide: http://www.passionforbusiness.com/articles/mastermind-group.htm ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Amy, thanks for the advice, I’ll check that out.

    When I last freelanced and wrote fiction, back in the 90s, I belonged to a group called Washington Independent Writers, that isn’t around anymore. I met some creative writers through that group and we formed our own support group, there were five of us. I’m longing to have something like that again, I’ll see if this leads me there.

  7. I have recently joined a small writing group in this area and found them to be diverse but kindred spirits. Supportive group and apparently they handle serious criticism by sending work privately to each other for that kind of dissection when they want it. So far I have found it to be a positive boost to my own writing.

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