The slimy feeling of sharing your work

Matt Gemmell:

There are two points of vulnerability here: the slimy feeling of asking for a link, and yearning for readers (and thus validation).

This is something that I deal with every day. I love writing, and I love people reading my work, but I hate having to share it on social networks.

It feels cruddy to share your work. it feels like you’re asking for a pat on the back, like the person who posts a selfie remarking on how ugly they are. it feels adolescent and needy, coupled with being exhibitionist and opening you up to ego-shattering pushback. It gets very slightly easier over time, but (in my experience), never really easy per se.

I find it rude to bother everyone with my work. I try my best to keep this to a minimum, and not bother everyone with a ton of updates. I think it comes down to respecting my friends, family, and readers. In a perfect world, I’d never mention the things I do, and anyone that wanted to see my latest updates would simply visit my site whenever they want to.

I’m at the point where I feel that my work is validated: by feedback, by readership, and by my own perception of whether or not I’m satisfied that I’ve made it as good as I can. However, the act of sharing it still makes me uncomfortable. Not the work itself, and not putting it out there”, and not the fact that it is out there. Just the specific, actual act of telling people.

It’s so damned presumptuous. Publishing a piece is fine; let people find it via their feed-readers or by visiting a bookmark. But the tweet (or Facebook post) has a strong whiff of arrogance. I always tweet a link to my pieces — you may even have arrived here via one — and I cringe every time.

Here’s the only piece of advice I can give: you just have to push past it. Ultimately, you have to write for yourself, not anyone else. What I mean is that you have to feel good about the work itself. Can I stand behind this? Am I glad to put my name to this? If you can answer yes” to those questions, all the other things at least have a chance of following afterwards naturally. I also know all about yearning for readership. For responses, and for validation. Writers need to be read. It’s a very frustrating journey trying to build an audience; no question about it. Your mood and self-worth get dragged along behind you.

Again, the only advice that turned out to be useful is the tough, unhelpful-sounding cliché: I genuinely believe that if the work is true (resonant), readers will come. You may — and will — have to produce a lot of it, over a long time, but sooner or later the network effect will kick in if your output is consistent. There aren’t any shortcuts, so you’d better enjoy the process.

And that’s the best part about all of this: I love the process—almost to a fault. The process is the finish line for me. Without the process, I wouldn’t enjoy the finished projects. It’s the journey of building out a site and brainstorming about a new album to record that keeps me up at night. If you’re not into hours of writing and doing work, and not knowing where you’ll end up when the night’s over, then this occupation isn’t for you.

Just remember to do it for the work, not for the response. Respect your readers as you would a dear friend — they’re giving you the most valuable gift: attention — but don’t invite another cook into the kitchen.

I’ve always thought the best measure of a piece of writing was that you’d still write it even if no-one else would ever read it.



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