If cooking is your thing, think about the last delicacy you chose, shopped for, prepared and served. Each step differed, yet was an important component of the process.
Choosing a recipe involves deciding whether the ingredients and preparation method will lead to an enjoyable dining experience.
Shopping for recipe ingredients involves envisioning the final product and the enjoyment of those I’m serving it to. Preparing food is work, but anything we choose to do typically involves labor.
Now, imagine that instead of presenting the dish to customers, friends or loved ones, you leave it sitting on the kitchen counter. Eventually, it will cool off. Cheese will congeal. If it’s a soufflé, it (does anyone actually make soufflés anymore?) If it’s our house, the cats will decide the humans lost interest and will make a mess.
Whatever the case, if you work that hard to select, shop for and prepare a dish, it’s a loss to all involved to stop short of sharing it. Two things are at play here: 1) you won’t get the closure of seeing all your hard work pay off in others’ enjoyment and 2) your customers/friends/loved ones won’t get to enjoy a gustatory sensation.
Why creativity matters
Several friends posted I’m Broke and Mostly Friendless, and I’ve Wasted My Whole Life recently. The people who posted it are among the people I trust the most to sense insight when they find it, and the comments to THEIR posts hinted at the idea that the piece filled a need, so I read it. And I, too, shared it.
I suspect each of us who posted “broke and friendless” got something different out of it. Maybe that’s the hallmark of a good piece of writing. Maybe, with this essay, the lesson a reader takes from it has a whole lot to do with where they are at personally in their lives.
At first, the line, “Shame is the opposite of art. When you live inside of your shame, everything you see is inadequate and embarrassing,” spoke loudest to me. I did just read a Brene Brown book (I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”), after all, and shame has been one of my biggest personal foes throughout my lifetime.
More than the examination of shame and its role, though, the piece immediately led me to think about what it takes for us to have the courage to share the things we have created, whether they be blog posts, newspaper articles, speeches, songs or pieces of art. Why do we hesitate, assuming it’s somehow presumptuous of us to share or that what we have created may not be “enough”?
Here are the ingredients I hope you’ll consider putting into your “creativity soufflé.”
Change how you see your creation
Sankin Speech Improvement’s Public Speaking | How Can You Reduce the Stress? has a section I shared with my Toastmasters mentee to help her prepare mentally for one of her first speeches. The section is titled “change your internal conversation.” This principle applies to so many things, but especially to that voice in your head that asks “is this really worthy of sharing?” “am I being too self promotional?” “who do you think you are anyway?” prior to putting whatever you have done out into the world. Here’s what it says:
Instead of saying “I am so nervous that I think I will be sick”, say “I think I can really help these people with the information that I am going to share”. The goal of your presentation is to have a positive impact on your listeners such that they leave your presentation with new information that they can implement in their lives.
Honor your own hard work
For several years, one of my tasks at the Lead Change Group was compiling the monthly Leadership Development Carnival. This task was such a pleasure because I had the opportunity to read so much excellent writing on the topic of leadership. I often walked away frustrated, though, because there were so few comments, even to the posts that had the strongest potential to help people turn the tables when their leadership struggles threatened to get the best of them.
Comments aren’t the only indicator of blog success, of course. I can tell from my own Google Analytics (and from people who tell me they’ve read my blog) that many more people click on a post than comment. But there is something validating to the fact that someone took the time to comment on something you’ve written. At the beginning of my time compiling the carnival, I would try to comment on each post, but eventually I stopped (I wasn’t getting paid to spend all that time commenting, and authors rarely acknowledged the comments (pro tip: acknowledging your comments builds engagement)). Yet I still wondered who was reading these great posts and why they didn’t engage more people in dialogue. It seemed like a loss all around.
To get comments, you have to do a certain amount of sharing of content (unless you’re that rare superstar that people flock to no matter whether you put yourself out there or not). They won’t know it’s there if you don’t give them the option to read it (and maybe a smidgen of encouragement to do so).
Accepting compliments and responding to naysayers comes with taking any risk
The receipt of compliments sounds simple enough. Who wouldn’t want to hear positive responses? For many of us, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Shonda Rhimes wrote an entire chapter in Year of Yes about how hard it was to learn to accept compliments graciously. She especially emphasized the need to do so without minimizing the complimenter’s intentions. If someone makes the effort to say they like your dress, for example, “thank you” is the best response. Not “this old thing? I got it on consignment.”
Why rain on people’s good intentions? Many of us grew up being conditioned to be deferential and to not be full of ourselves. There’s a difference between simply acknowledging someone’s generosity of spirit and being arrogant. But you can’t enter the compliment quandary if you don’t share what you’ve done. Do it. Then practice by repeating after me: “thank you.” Period. End of sentence.
Naysayers are a different challenge, and I can’t say my skin has been particularly thick about this over the decade I’ve been blogging. In my new job, I also have the task of responding to reader feedback. Shockingly, it isn’t all of the “that was the best thing I ever read” nature. But they’re reading, and they’re willing to talk to me about it. That’s more of an opening than a closing, for sure. There’s a saying in the fitness community when someone hems and haws about whether the mile (or whatever) they ran was enough that goes along the lines of, “you did better than someone on the couch.” I’m usually a little annoyed by that, honestly, but the part of it that rings true is the fact that the person who ran the mile did burn the calories, condition their muscles and generate the endorphins even if it wasn’t star-athlete quality. Trying matters. The opinion of the people on the couch, for this purpose, don’t matter.
This “Broke and Friendless” post resonated deeply with me. My thoughts in this post have only scratched the surface. However, the topics addressed in “Broke and Friendless” are so varied from each other (even though they relate, of course): shame, doing satisfying work, making something of your life, that trying to squeeze it all into one response would defeat the purpose.
I feel strongly that there are many of you with whom I interact, either in person, on social media, or some other way in blogworld, who need to be reminded and/or encouraged to serve the creativity soufflé before it falls.