The Zen of Showing One’s Work

Last week I had the honor of reading my prose piece, “The Orchard by My House is Gone” at the book release celebration of Paper Gardens the annual literary journal of Yamhill County, Oregon.  I was joined by other local authors that had their work published along with family members and members of the community.  The most memorable part of the evening was when adults shared the stage with writers of all ages including those as young as second grade.  We were all writers in different stages of our journeys who took the risk to submit our work to be judged and perhaps rejected.

 A close friend asked to see my entry and I emailed it to her.  She read it and then responded that how much she appreciated me sharing my work with her.  Doing so gave her a window into my life and how I view the world.  She remarked in her email that a long-ago friend was a painter but would not allow anyone else to view her work and that “would potentially impact the way she felt about her art.”  I also have an acquaintance that ceased painting her stunning watercolors as she never sold them at the one event where she exhibited.  Paintings are especially challenging to sell as it’s not only if a person likes the piece, it has to fit and match one’s décor.

I find both these situations very sad.  We are always under the scrutiny of others- the way we think, dress, or otherwise live our lives.  I don’t make art for economic gain anymore.  What is imperative is that my creativity provides a spark to my life, joy in the process of its creation, and serves as an avenue for self-expression.  There lies the attitude of non-attachment. There will be some that don’t care for what I write or create, yet there will be others who resonate with it.  It’s not a deal-breaker as I am out to please myself.  It is the nature of bringing creation to the world to see. If I am pleased with my work and it is well-executed, that is enough.  It’s like hiking.  I go out and have a beautiful day among nature and if I see wildlife, so much the better.

The caveat here is there is no obligation to show everything to everyone.  Some creations are too personal or too rough to share.  Yet, to be vulnerable enough to show the process from sketch to completion is so illuminating to others, especially to those who are just starting. 

I am a big fan of Austin Kleon’s book, “Share Your Work”.  Austin has a huge following on social media and promotes online platforms to get yourself out there.  But you don’t have to use them. The metric of likes doesn’t mean your work is good or bad.   There are more meaningful avenues available like blogging, or even a group of friends.  I stopped posting my artwork on Instagram as I found it too distracting and meaningless.

Imagine if Vincent Van Gogh had not shared his work with the world.  Even though (as lore has it) he only sold one piece of work during his short life, “The Red Vineyard at Arles.”  This is after producing an impressive 900 paintings in 9 years.  Dr. Suess (Theodore Gieisal) was rejected by 27 publishers before he got his first book published And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, one of my all-time favorite books as a kid.  I grew up on those books and cherish those times my father read them to me.  I’m so grateful both those men persisted as with the other multitude of authors and artists that put their work out into the world.

So I will continue to create and share with the hopes that when I hit that publish button, someone out there will learn will enjoy it, be inspired, or perhaps learn something new.   If nothing else, I enjoyed the process.

Red Vineyard at Arles- Vincent Van Gogh

4 thoughts on “The Zen of Showing One’s Work

  1. I am so glad you share, Alanna. I really enjoyed this post on many levels. As fellow bloggers here on Word Press, we can share our works without worry of monetary gain which would take it to a level I am not comfortable with. Give it away, I say. 🙂 But I also share at a writers group I have been attending for about ten years now. And I also have a friend with whom I share works daily (we both love Kleon) just for a challenge. This month we are doing doodles or small pieces of art. Then next month she is going to concentrate on painting birds and I am going to share a haiku a day with her. These monthly challenges we give ourselves and share with each other keep the creative juices flowing. So thank you for this post. As a side note, I appreciate you showing the Van Gogh with your post. I just randomly looked up his art museum in Amsterdam today for writing inspiration and his sun caught my attention. Then I see a very similar sun in the painting you posted and it made me think that it is not so bad to write on the same topics and in the same form from time to time. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just love the idea of having a creativity partner! (envious). That must provide an added layer of inspiration to your practice. When you finish your writnginspired by Van Gogh’s sun, please do share.
      Thanks so much for sharing your response to my post, Luanne. I was ambivalent about tackling this subject and ultimately trusted my instincts. Your feedback made it all the more worthwhile!

      Liked by 1 person

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