Courage and Community

The other day I shared a quote about courage on Instagram. “What we do, let’s do with boldness” (Courage Forever, John Bodwell Wood).  Since then I’ve been thinking a lot about courage and where it shows up, or doesn’t, in my life, in particular in regard to creating art.

 

We don’t always recognise it but creating art, in fact doing any sort of creative work, is a brave thing to do, particularly when you start sharing your work with others. I made the decision recently to sync my Facebook and Instagram accounts so when I post to Instagram I also immediately post to Facebook. This felt scary to me.  On Instagram I’m more open and honest about my art and my vision.  I find myself more circumspect on Facebook where my closest family and friends are. Why is that? I suspect it’s because whilst I’m building a network on Instagram most of my followers there do not know me in person. Our interactions are through likes and hearts only. On Facebook my community are my friends and family, people I see regularly, some people I’ve known since I was a child. I feel more apprehensive sharing my work with them because I’m more scared of their criticism and judgement, it would hurt more.

 

In addition through my art I’m starting to share parts of me I’ve not shared with other people, parts I keep hidden from everyone bar my husband and daughter.  Instagram hashtags also get shared to Facebook when you share the same post on both and that’s made me apprehensive. I have OCD and #ocdart is one of my tags. Yet most of my closest friends and even family do not know this. But now if they look at the tags they will see it and thereby know something about me I’ve never chosen to share with them. That makes me anxious and raises all sorts of questions about why I’ve not shared it with them. That’s for another post I think. The point today is more about the courage I’m having to show keeping that tag in, letting the post be shared as is to Facebook, sharing that information about myself. And the reason I feel I need to do this, the need to have courage, is because if I am to make authentic art I have to be authentic in and of myself, and part of that is being more open and honest with those around me.

 

Any time you put your work out there you make yourself vulnerable to judgement and criticism. That takes courage. I rarely ask people for feedback on my art. If I’m honest I’m scared of criticism. I feel vulnerable about my art – I’ve put my heart and soul into it, made it the very best it can be, so criticism will sting – even though I know some criticism, constructive criticism, could help me grow and develop as an artist. But I’m scared. I lack courage. That needs to change.

 

Of course not all criticism of art means there’s something wrong that needs to change. Sometimes it’s because someone just doesn’t like what you’ve made, your work just doesn’t appeal to them.  All artists have to accept the fact that not everyone is going to like their art. It’s important to trust your own vision with your art so that even if someone criticises it you know it has integrity, you know it’s true to your vision and you believe in it. When you believe in your art and when it expresses your truth criticism cannot touch it or you. It’s only when you are uncertain of your vision that judgement can truly unsettle and undermine you. If your art comes from a place of clarity and strength it can stand tall and speak its truth. This is true in all areas of life – if you are clear who you are and what you stand for and speak to truth you are on the strongest footing of all.

 

But this isn’t easy. It requires digging deep, discovering what you truly feel and believe, and this means making yourself vulnerable. All art has to stem from a place of vulnerability – when you open yourself up to express yourself in art you make yourself vulnerable, even if no one ever sees your art. And this vulnerability means the moment you put brush to canvas or pen to paper you are being courageous . When you take that extra step of sharing it on social media or even that bigger step of making it available for sale, you are being even more courageous. You are putting yourself out there into the world saying look at me and what I feel, let me share  part of me with you. You are also saying to potential collectors, “If this resonates with you, if it speaks to you, then it’s available to buy, for you to keep forever. ” When we do this we are reaching out for contact, connection and response. That is always a courageous thing to do, but it’s always worth doing and it’s something I am doing more and more of in my life.

 

We share ourselves and our stories through our art and that takes courage, but it has to be done as this is how we show up and make a difference in the world. We share our art to share ourselves and to find the people who resonate and connect with that expression of ourselves. In truth I think we share our art to find those people who respond to us, to our self expression, in a way that brings connection and community. And once we have found that we find we no longer need courage, we have found the people who know, see and understand us, we have found our community, we have found our way home.