Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On Sharing Our Work

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

blog20I had Bad Parenting Moment #1,000,001 (at least) on Sunday when I was at the theater with my ten year old daughter.

She’s recently become completely obsessed with horses. She writes poetry about horses, reads horse books, watches horse shows. And she draws many, many pictures of horses.

My daughter had her sketchbook with her while we were waiting for The Nutcracker to start (surprisingly, she’d agreed to go, even though there were no horses in the ballet.) A friend of mine was also at the ballet, noticed my daughter’s sketchbook (which I was holding for her), and asked her about her artwork.

I said, “Oh, yes! She’s drawn some amazing pictures of horses! Let me show you.” And, proud mama that I am, I opened that sketchbook right up and started flipping through it.

My daughter was absolutely horrified. She snatched it right back out of my hands and gave me a reproachful look. I apologized immediately and was still apologizing the next day.

You’d think, of all people, I’d understand about the privacy aspect of creativity. And I do, but only in an academic way. Even as a kid—even at my daughter’s age—I wanted to share my writing. I’d shove three or four 3-ring binders of stories at you if you showed even the slightest inkling of interest. You could be a teacher, a friend’s parent, a fellow ten year old kid, some random adult—I wanted to tell you a story.

But what I’ve realized over the years is that there’s also a lot of pleasure in writing for ourselves. I have to remind myself of this. Sometimes I’ll be at writing conferences and a writer approaches me to talk about writing. I’ll ask what avenues they’re pursuing for publication—magazines? Literary journals? Are they querying agents? Publishers? Going the e-publishing route?

And sometimes—they just blink at me. They’re totally happy, completely satisfied artistically, by just writing. They just wanted to talk to me about the writing craft.

Honestly, sometimes I think they’re the lucky ones. There’s so much non-artistic work that goes with publishing— promo, figuring out platforms, considering what will sell. It’s easy to lose the joy of it.

Occasionally, I’ve run into writers (or they’ve emailed me) who’ve written for themselves for years…and are now thinking about sharing their work. They’ve asked me where they should start out.

I think, if someone is considering sharing their work, they should start sharing in a limited way. Maybe look into critique groups (in-person or online) and just get used to hearing feedback. And, if that group doesn’t work out, try another one.

Are you happy writing for yourself or are there other artistic things you’d rather keep private (playing an instrument, drawing?) Do you write some things for publication and some things for yourself?

And, if you’re looking for a quick and easy chicken recipe, join me at Terry’s Place this morning. I’m sharing a recipe for Apricot Chicken. :)