If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself from the process of making art, it’s this: I’m essentially a coward. I’m completely chickenshit when it comes to putting my art out there in front of an audience.
Making art is an inherently scary process, and putting it in front of people is even more so. By releasing my art out into the world, I’m opening myself up to judgment by other people. To be successful as an artist, I have to share my work. It’s kind of part of the job description. But I’m a golden retriever, and I’m particularly scared of negative feedback.
I swear that the only reason I’ve succeeded as a professional model is that I have to put my art in front of somebody else immediately. I have to pose in front of the photographer at the shoot. If I didn’t have to do that, I’d probably still be hiding in a corner somewhere, honing my craft—just like I’m doing with my music and my writing. I know it’s true, because although I have absolutely no fear of standing naked in the middle of a room full of strangers, I’m terrified of updating my social media with my modeling images. It’s a good thing I have a publication schedule for this blog, or I’d never post that either.
So to try and get over this fear—at least a little—I’ve been doing an experiment for the month of May. I called it the “Ship It, Fuck Your Bullshit” Challenge in honor of one of my favorite Twitter accounts. The challenge is pretty simple: there are only two rules. One: finish a piece of art every day, no matter how small or how poorly executed. Two, and most importantly: share it with an audience of at least three people.
Sounds easy, right? Well, it wasn’t. I almost gave up just a few days in because posting was so damn scary. One day, I had recorded a video of me playing a Chopin Nocturne, and I was going to post it to my personal Facebook. I loaded the video, and then . . .just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stop thinking about how terrible I believed the recording was. I was convinced that my friends were going to realize I was a dreadful pianist. Eventually, it got so bad that I had to have my boyfriend click the “share" button for me.
But man, was the experiment worth it. Over the course of the month, I wrote essays and tried my hand at poetry (sorry to everybody who read that). I composed new piano music and restarted my band. I made and wore chainmail jewelry that I’ve been meaning to finish for forever. I even tried my hand at photography and self-portraiture for the first time—something I’ve wanted to do for years.
And the best part? I was making and doing things, and not letting the fear of judgment stop me, because I wasn’t allowed to. I couldn’t make all those things and hide them away, like I wanted to. I had to actually put them out there for people to see, and get used to the idea of persevering through uncertainty.
I learned that sometimes my art would fall flat, and I’d have to share it anyway. It took me three self-portrait shoots before I created an image that didn’t make me cringe. I still had to share the first two. This was ultimately a good thing. The feedback I got on those first images meant that I learned and grew faster than if I’d hidden them away until I deemed them “good enough.”
Finishing and sharing one thing a day had other benefits too. Every day, no matter how well writing or modeling or email went, I could point to that one thing and feel like I had done something worthwhile with my time.
This experiment was such a success that I’m going to continue it for the foreseeable future. I even plan to widen my audience and post to social media more frequently. It certainly hasn’t cured me of my fear completely, but it’s given me another tool to fight it with—and another opportunity to improve myself and my art.