I know a fair amount of writers. By that I don’t necessarily mean that these people write books, but they write. They’re a mix of journalists, passionate writers, bloggers, novelists and editors. It doesn’t really matter what the objective is. They’re writers. It’s as simple as that.
One of the most common problems I’ve found among said writers is a vice that to some degree many of us have buried down somewhere. It’s the fear of having our work exposed, critiqued, ridiculed or torn down by an outside party. It’s the vulnerability we face by putting our writing out there and having its fate rest in the hands of its beholders. It’s the fear of what you do and love to do leaving the safety of your mind. It’s the fear of judgement day.
Perhaps you know of an aspiring writer or artist of some kind who seems to possess a talent. Who seems to be motivated. Who seems to always be creating something. But they just always keep it hidden.
Now if it’s hidden completely by choice because it’s just a hobby, form of escapism or passion that is done only for the purposes of the person doing it, and there is no ambition or desire to take it anywhere, then that’s alright. But where I have a problem is when these people aspire to reach an audience and make their art more than just a hobby, but let fear hold them back.
I won’t sugar-coat it or resort to hyperbole. I was an editor of a South African gaming website, EGMR, for over five years. My former colleagues would totally back me up on this but I know exactly what it’s like to put an opinion together for the purposes of discussion, only with the intention of offering an alternate perspective, and then witnessing your opinion, motivations and character itself be torn down by some people simply because they disagree with you or don’t like what you’ve written.
I’m also a self-published author having released one book in 2014, a crime thriller called The Sorrow. I’m currently doing final editing on my second book, The Black Glass Killer. So I know what it’s like to have your work critiqued and reviewed.
On the other hand you’ll get some people who encourage you and offer you the kindest words, and others that will really open your mind up to new viewpoints. Unfortunately due to the negativity bias our brains have a harsher reaction to bad news even when there is good news of equal intensity. Losses hurt more than gains. Insults hurt more than compliments. We’re just wired that way. But we aren’t powerless to deal with it.
You can’t control what others think or say. You can only control what you do and create. What you put into it, how hard you try and how you pick yourself up again after tripping or getting thrown on your ass.
There are some fears that you genuinely need professional help with to resolve. Exposure therapy is probably not the way to go for a phobia of snakes for example. But with regards to fears that are largely fed by self-doubt and external factors, such as those that make you afraid of what other people think or say, exposure certainly is a potential cure.
If you want to create something of any kind, whether it’s art, video games, movies or books you have to be ready to face the music so to speak. If you’re too afraid to take the first step to expose your own creation to the world then you may never get to know whether you have an audience for your work. Whether people like what you have to offer.
The difference between that content creator who made it big, that content creator who doesn’t have much yet but is happy doing what they do (like me) and you, is simply putting the work on the line. If you don’t put your work on the line then you don’t have to ever face any scrutiny over it. It’s a safety net that holds you back to make you feel secure.
I’ve heard many reasons as to why talented people hide their work. They don’t feel the work is ready yet. They haven’t created ‘it’ yet. There’s something missing. They don’t want to be like anyone else. They want professional publication first. There are a multitude of reasons to doubt yourself and to keep things as they are: safe.
What is art if it isn’t seen or admired by anyone else? It’s little more than the scribbles of a child who fell in love with a crayon.
At the end of the day sometimes you need to run before you can walk. You need to put your work out there and open yourself up to what comes with that. You may get bad news, you may get good news or you may get no news at all because no one took notice of what you made. But you have to practice, keep going and not give up because forget Rome, art and reputation and success aren’t all built in a day.
Whether I myself find any success in future or not is up to life to decide. But it’s my hope that through my passion I’ll meet others who share it, and potentially help others who want to share their work but perhaps lack the conviction or motivation required to do it. I don’t just want to be in it for myself. I want to help others and share what I learn over the coming years with others, because what I say just might inspire someone out there far more talented than I am, but without the confidence to put it to use.
And that would be extraordinary, wouldn’t it?