Why Sharing Your Work is Not the Same as Selling Out

by: Shannon McNay

When I was a young writer, I was dead set against marketing my work. I believed that:

  1. No one should see my work until it’s perfect
  2. I won’t reach success as a writer until a publishing house picks up my novel and attempts to sell it to the masses

Then I started dating an entrepreneurial engineer who worked on chipping away at my beliefs. He believed that:

  1. I should share my work early and begin collecting feedback – both to learn and improve or, in the worst case scenario, to “fail fast”
  2. I must build a platform of my own rather than wait for someone else to publish my writing

To say I was resistant to his ideas would be the understatement of the century. I cringe now at the number of times I told him that he just “didn’t understand” and that “it’s different” for writers. Amazingly, he persistently pushed through my stubbornness long-held beliefs; and with time I started to understand his point of view.

That’s when I shed my assumptions as an artist and realized something very important:

The creator doesn’t have to wait for someone to “discover” his or her work.

In fact, this waiting is often futile. Creators have ultimate control – if only they take the reigns and share their work.

Why Share Your Work?

If you’re anything like I was, you’re probably wondering why it’s so important to share your work. Isn’t it better to focus on perfecting your art, your masterpiece, your product than it is to spend your time trying to share it with the world?

Not if you want your work to see the light of day.

I now understand that I was wrong to assume marketing, networking, and distributing my work were all akin to “selling” it – or “selling out”.

It’s not.

Sharing your work isn’t about selling. It’s about showing. All creators strive for their work to be viewed, to be used, to become a part of people’s lives. That simply cannot happen if the work stays under the creator’s lock and key.

…And isn’t it so much better to have control over the way your work enters the world rather than wait for someone else to discover it and guide the vision?

It’s Time to Let the Glorified Artist Go

As a society, we love to romanticize the tortured artist. We focus on what makes a good story (like how Van Gogh’s work wasn’t appreciated until after his death) and forget about the reality (that he lived a life of struggle and melancholy). We do the same with entrepreneurs – focusing on how Steve Jobs and Bill Gates created empires from their garages and forgetting that they never intended to stay in their garages for long.

Van Gogh, Jobs, and Gates had one thing in common: they wanted their work to be known. They wanted their work to have an impact on the world and did whatever it took to make that happen.

As much as the tortured artist and creator make for great stories, they don’t make for great lives – or great work. Van Gogh’s work wasn’t brilliant because he was tortured and undiscovered. His work was brilliant simply because it was. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs didn’t create the empires they did because they lived in garages, they created their empires because they had a vision and were willing to sacrifice in order to see it through to fruition.

You do not need to hide your work for its brilliance to blossom. And your work will not lose its brilliance simply because it sees the light of day.

Great work is built from vision and craft. Vision leads to creation. Craft is developed from consistently learning, failing, trying again, and improving. Focus on your craft. Allow your vision to shine through. Then….

Share your work with the world!

2 responses to “Why Sharing Your Work is Not the Same as Selling Out”

  1. Ben Freda says:

    Love this article! So … that entrepreneurial engineer you were dating … did you end up marrying that guy by any chance? 😉

    • Shannon McNay says:

      Thanks!! Haha perhaps… You know what they say, “If he gives good career advice, marry him!” (Wait, they don’t say that?… 😉 )

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