Sharing. Your. Work. In a climate of constant self-promotion, it feels like every time you log in, you're consuming someone's material: their blog posts (cough, cough), their successful looking profile pictures, their Playbill.com links (holler if you hear me theatre-lovers). It's so easy to get wrapped up in the mental discourse that goes something like, oh my God, not another example of just how successful he is, I could never share that much, I could never put myself out there like that.
When Allie and I first created LRW, there was a lot of shared anxiety about putting ourselves "out there." Even though we are far away from you, with computer screens and keyboards and cyberspace keeping us physically isolated, we felt awfully exposed. And when we decided that we wanted to grow the blog, gain more followers, do affiliate marketing, and create a long term plan - we had to expose ourselves even more.
Personally, I walk this line through every - single - thing - I do. I have my hand in three professions where self-promotion is inherent and utterly required: acting, fitness, blogging. On top of which, I love promoting my friends' and husband's work. I could link away all day until you were connected to everyone and every thing I've ever loved. And there is a part of me that feels anxious about that. Am I being annoying? Being presumptuous? Having too much nerve? And then there's this other part...
Craig recently directed me to a post from Brain Pickings (Do you read this blog? YOU MUST!) where Maria Popova unpacks the book Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. He posits that promoting your work, getting yourself seen, is crucial to actually creating your deep and meaningful work:
Social media sites function a lot like public notebooks—they’re places where we think out loud, let other people think back at us, then hopefully think some more. But the thing about keeping notebooks is that you have to revisit them in order to make the most out of them. You have to flip back through old ideas to see what you’ve been thinking. Once you make sharing part of your daily routine, you’ll notice themes and trends emerging in what you share. You’ll find patterns in your flow.
When you detect these patterns, you can start gathering these bits and pieces and turn them into something bigger and more substantial. You can turn your flow into stock. For example, a lot of the ideas in this book started out as tweets, which then became blog posts, which then became book chapters. Small things, over time, can get big.
There's this Steven Pressfield quote I love (and have tweeted): "The amateur tweets - the pro works." I hear him. He's suggesting that the more we engage in frivolous tallying and comparing and online-quiz-taking, the less we are creating. But Kleon goes toward a different hypothesis, which is that self-promotion is part of the creative act. The online act of engaging with your community, giving them something of value, and figuring it out as you go (amateur that you are) becomes an act of creative revolution:
Amateurs [are] just regular people who get obsessed by something and spend a ton of time thinking out loud about it… Raw enthusiasm is contagious.
The world is changing at such a rapid rate that it’s turning us all into amateurs. Even for professionals, the best way to flourish is to retain an amateur’s spirit and embrace uncertainty and the unknown.
I wonder if we treated our online communities like visionary communes instead of insecurity dumping grounds if we might all just sink our teeth into our true and raw potential: that spark of excitement that splits into a courageous attempt which morphs into a new conceptualization that forms itself into some real Work.
It's worth considering as we round out our #scratchfor50 challenge in the next two weeks that if we whole-heartedly commit to not only making our work, but sharing it with others, that self-promotion might turn into an actual promotion. Elevating us to the next level. Connecting the dots where before were only impossible gaps. Creating a buzz around our deepest desires in order to not just look ahead at what our work could be some day, but to the present moment and what our work looks like right now. Our flawed and imperfect and utterly useful work.
I guess my point is: let's flood each other's inboxes and newsfeeds with good, real, raw, creative, amateurish-gonna-be-something-someday work that defines who we are and this moment we exist in. Let's burn up our anxieties with the practice of exposure. Let's find our voices and let 'er rip.
What do you want to share with us?
images via Pinterest