Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fear Not, Expose Yourself

Some of you may be aware that last year I got it into my head it would be a good idea to have a VLOG. Okay, maybe I didn't think it was a GOOD idea, but I was bored and I thought 'why not?'. In reality, it's sort of a wonder as to why I stepped up and actually did that first vlog and the 51 others I've put forth into the world since. To be honest, there are a lot of reasons not to do a vlog. Just as there are a lot of reasons why you shouldn't do a blog, make a fan page on Facebook, or create yourself a website for your work.

If you aren't an ego monster, you might wonder why anyone would want to read, watch or look at whatever it is you're doing. Like me, you might suffer from self-doubts. You might think your work isn't good enough. Or, you might worry people won't understand it. Some of you may have never shown your work to another living soul and are terrified to take the first step.

Then there is the other part. The part that fears criticism. And, to put it bluntly, people aren't all sugar, rainbows and kittens chasing puppies. No. People can be cruel. It's these cruel people who will show up on your website just to tell you your writing has less merit than the hastily scrawled writings on the bathroom door at the gas station by Lickety Splits Five and Dime. Or they make an appearance on your YouTube channel to let you know your face looks like an over tenderized rump roast. People often are rude, harsh, and mercilessly nasty just for the sake of being harsh, rude, and mercilessly nasty. Some people just like to be mean, shocking, I know.

If self doubts and fear of criticism aren't making you hesitate about putting your artistic endeavours out in the world, maybe your need to question everything is. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, has at one time or another asked them self, what's the point? Why should we put our creations out in the world? What if you make a blog and only ten people subscribe? Or you start a vlog and only get thirteen views? What's going to come of it?

These, I think, are the three most common reasons why people balk at the idea of showing their creations to the world.

The other day I was talking to my friend at work and I said to him, "If you don't put yourself out there, you aren't going to get anything back." It sounds like a cheesy line someone says to you when you're lost, lonely and looking for love. But I wasn't talking about finding the perfect mate, I was talking about my vlog, blog, fan-page, and website.

Two years ago, I didn't have any of it. I didn't want to have any of it. In some ways I was embarrassed of my writing, but mostly I felt it wasn't any good. No one, and I do mean no one, seemed interested in it. It wasn't until recently that I was able sit back and think, how could they have been interested in it, most people didn't even know about it. I like to say my leap into the virtual world was made out of stupidity, but, in reality, I think it was made out of sheer brilliance because it's given me something I never would have had otherwise.


Not 100% confidence, mind you, because it waffles daily. Sometimes it's at 63% and other times it's at 82%, but it's still there, hanging out in the background saying, "Do it, Tyson, someone, somewhere will like it."

But here is the truth, while someone, somewhere will like it, someone, somewhere will also hate it. And I'm okay with that, we all have to be okay with that. In grade school we learned we can't control what other people think or feel and that applies to our own work. The most important thing we can learn is the shrug and nod.

The shrug and nod is a movement that says, "Oh, well, that's your opinion and I accept it." It is a key gesture needed to survive in practically any industry. It's the moment when you realize the other person is not going to change their opinion and so you simply let them have it, because they are entitled to it.

If you take away anything from this blog, take away this: DON'T = WON'T.

If you don't put yourself out there, you won't get anything. And I do mean anything, whether it be recognition for how brilliant you are, a supportive community to encourage and keep you ploughing away, viewers for your vlog, blog subscribers, a contract with an agent, a national bestseller, or a kick in the pants from someone who can teach you how to make your work better. Those who do not try, who do not put themselves out there, will walk away empty handed.

Self Doubts

We all have them. Do not think you are unique with your own, you aren't. We all, at some point, doubt our work, doubt what we are doing and doubt who we are. Since we all have them, don't let them hold you back. Too many people allow their self doubts to keep them from experiencing the things they want or achieving their goals. Don't be one of those people. Don't let yourself hold you back.

Fearing Criticism

No one should be afraid of criticism. First off, it could help make you better at whatever it is you're doing. Secondly, you can always say to yourself, 'hey, it's one person's opinion and I can't please everyone.' And third, we all get it. Even world famous singers, writers, actors get it. The other day I read a comment about how someone hated The Road by Cormac McCarthy. If McCarthy has people who hate his work you are destined to have people hate yours.

I want to stress the importance of learning how distinguish the different types of criticism. This is important for two reasons:

1. To know who and what to listen to in order to grow. 
2. To know how to respond accordingly.

Helpful Criticism - This is often accompanied by the person saying a couple things they liked about your work. They might use words like 'I think', 'in my opinion' or 'this could be better', or they might leap right in and say what they disliked. Usually, helpful criticism makes you think about your work, it makes you reread a section or it might wake you up to something you were unaware of. This form of criticism can hurt or be a blow to the ego, but the main thing you need to know is that it usually isn't malicious and it certainly isn't a swipe at you personally. Try not to take it to heart.

Unhelpful Criticism (also called Douchebaggery Crit) - This type of crit is easier to recognize. Usually it includes things like this is fucked, I've never read something so horrible, god awful, stop doing this, my eyes are bleeding and your face is as ugly as my dog's ass. These are personal attacks. Chances are they didn't even read your work or watch your video. You can tell because they don't site any examples from your work and instead choose the more mature route of name calling. You can completely disregard this sort of criticism. Also it is best not to respond. If you do wish to respond, appear unaffected, even if you are hurt by them saying your mother should have aborted you instead of birthing you.

Why? Oh, Why? 

This is probably the most useless reason not to do something. None of us know the future. We don't know if our blog is going to be successful the day we start it, or if our free story uploaded to Kindle is going to get a thousand downloads in a day. People who are successful at one point didn't know if they would be. They may have even asked themselves, what's the point?! Sure, the market is tough. Yes, it gets frustrating putting yourself out there at times. And I know it's aggravating to continuously do something and not get the reaction or recognition that you feel you deserve or want.

But what's the reverse? Not doing it? Having it sit on your computer collecting dust? That's one way for your dreams to never come true. People don't succeed by hiding. They succeed by taking the first step and then another one after that. Granted, your steps might lead you to a dead end, but that's when you turn around and take another step in a new direction.

Like you, I have fears. I don't know why anyone would watch my vlogs or read my blogs, but I still do them. Having thirteen views is better than none. And having ten subscribers is better than only my cat hearing my opinions on random things. So, take the step. Toss the fear to the side and expose yourself. Who knows, someone could actually like what they see and you might be the next big thing.


Missy said...

You've hit the nail on the head with this one. I never realized how personal my writing was to me until I started posting it online. I didn't know if it was any good and some love it, some hate it. But the not so nice comments and the rejections have made me even more determined. I write for me and what people think does matter but not as much as they'd think.

I needed this today! So thanks!

Sessha Batto said...

As always, you're right. Too bad my confidence meter never goes much above 50% and is currently teetering at an all time low. I'll never be a vlogger, I fear - but at least I stick my head out of my bunker now! It's a start, you gotta start somewhere ;)

T.L Tyson said...

@ Missy - You're welcome!

@Sessha - The start is the hard part. Once you start, hopefully, it will be a ball gathering snow and just grow. :D

Calvin said...

So many people that have amazing talent never share it with the world and never feel complete or fulfilled. "Don't hide your light under a bushel",by doing so you not only rob yourself of great things but also the world. To all those who practice Douchebaggery Crit, as they say in England "Sod Off!!" Thanks T for saying what needs to be said. Oh, and in my opinion..............

Jo said...

Excellent blog. I understand and feel the self doubt all the time too. The negative reviews when I put my work out there made me question what I was doing. It teaches you to be tough and as you said confident. I will read this again when I have an attack of 'I really am crap'. :)

Mockingbird said...

I will be vlogging in the future. Unfortunately, currently vanity precludes me from appearing on camera until after my next hair appointment (silver fox is only sexy on the incredibly hip or men of a certain age, on me it just means my roots need doing!!). I guess I am one of the truly lucky ones. I haven't lacked confidence since I was an awkward teenager. Excellent post, you really nailed the subject.