Why you should overcome the fear of sharing your art
My stomach burns like I just chugged a dregs-of-the-coffee-pot cup of joe that is now eating a hole through my intestines to the center of the earth. Or maybe there’s a mouse on uppers doing a nervous, jittery tango in there. Or maybe both.
Why do I feel this way? Because I’m about to push the “publish” button on my first book of poetry, The Dragon & The Dragonfly.
I’ve been writing poetry off and on for 35 years, published my work in journals, and won numerous awards, so it’s not like I’m a newbie fresh out of school. But the thought of sharing my very personal poetry was making me doubt my decision to create this book, this permanent record of my words, this revealing of my soul.
I think this is a natural feeling shared by most writers and artists. And something that new artists can be especially concerned about—what if Uncle John or Grandma Ellen reads my words?
So how do you get over this fear of exposing too much of yourself? I don’t think you ever do. Any time we put something new out into the world, there’s a certain vulnerability in that but also a sense of freedom.
Sharing poems about my husband’s death and my subsequent grief felt too intimate and too raw, but that’s the nature of death and grief. It leaves us raw. It leaves us feeling exposed. Knowing I’m not the only person who has gone through this gave me courage to share my work, as in my poem “First Year.”
To be pushed off a cliff 100 times a day—
no warning, free-falling into nothingness,
no place to land since someone’s stolen the ground.
To be plunked into a rollercoaster, dragged
to the highest peak, then dropped far underground
where I lie motionless, hoping no one sees me.
To be a clock out of time—
to rise, work, eat, try to sleep, then repeat.
Each day, the day you died.
To be a broken mirror—to smile, to practice my laugh
until someone asks how I am and my voice splits
like static between radio stations.
To be a square, three-legged table, bracing
for something light as a pencil
or heavy as a poem.
To overcome your fear of sharing your work, remind yourself of the value you’re offering the world. I remember the woman who came up to me after a reading where I’d shared a poem about my husband dying. She told me that her husband had recently passed, and she appreciated my poem because it made her feel less alone.
Writing helped me move from a place of pain and despair to a place of hope and new life as evidenced by the last poem in my book “When Love Comes.”
An excerpt from “When Love Comes”
“when love comes like the sun
after a month of rain and I lift my face
as if to feel its heat for the first time,
when love comes like an infant
in the night, suckling my breast,
I want to greet it with open eyes
and a smile, saying, “You, again?”
I want to greet it without demanding
promises it can’t keep. I want to greet it
brimming with questions—”
Remember, your words have the potential to show others that healing is possible. We never know who our words might touch. Maybe at some level we’re all wounded, but it’s through sharing our pain, our joys, and our healing, by being truly authentic, that we can not only heal ourselves but shine a light for another.