How you share is a craft

If you are reading this, chances are you are a writer, illustrator, artist, or creator of some sort. You have embraced your creative craft, and work to develop it year after year.

I’ve always considered how we share to be a craft as well. How we show up. How we listen. How we connect. How we engage. How we celebrate others. How we communicate what drives us. How these things blend together to form aspects of our identity.

Often, a writer or creator will say they are “putting on their marketing hat” when they talk about their creative work. But I’ve never seen it that way. To me, art has always felt complete when it connects with someone. It is that blend between the intention of the person who created it, meeting up with the worldview and life experience of the person who engages with it. Thus…

How we share is a craft.

I think about this constantly. When I consider why 50,000 fans are crying at a concert for their favorite musical artist; Or why we share quotes from well-known writers, and someone replies: “THIS IS EVERYTHING.” Or why we listen to interviews with filmmakers. Or when we ask a performer about their process.

What I have been considering this week is whether someone views this craft of sharing as drudgery, or opportunity? Is it something that they do because they feel they “have to,” but are dismissive of? Or do they pine for the days where sharing was somehow someone else’s responsibility. EG: “Oh back in the day, your publisher did all the marketing, writers just wrote. I miss that.” Are they looking to do the absolute minimum of work in sharing, but with the maximum potential payoff? Do they negotiate with themselves about sharing what they create as one does standing nervously at the edge of a very high diving board: “Just take the step forward, do it once, get it over with, then it’s done. You will never climb up to this diving board again.”

I’ve spent a considerable part of the past week reviewing my blog archives: 13+ years of weekly essays. This started as routine website maintenance, but then I had noticed that in older posts, I had added images in an odd way. They were in this separate folder, and not fully integrated into my blog. So, when I run routine backups to my blog, they aren’t included. I decided to fix that.

How many images did I have to fix? 1,000 of them.

So that means I’m going through hundreds of blog posts, one by one, removing the old images, uploading the corrected image links, adding keywords to each, saving, and double checking. I’m also tracking all of this in a spreadsheet so I can easily spot any mistakes I made. So I’m not just taking 1,000 actions, I’m taking a multiple of that, something more like 10,000 actions just to fix this one thing that no one but me will ever truly notice.

I’m up to image #434 at the moment, and I recognized something — a feeling I was having. I was actually enjoying this work.

More than that, as I go through each and every blog post, I have found dozens upon dozens of other things that need to be fixed: removing an old email address that I no longer check which was present on hundreds of pages of my website; replacing old videos that were missing; removing ads for products I no longer sell; removing newsletter sign up forms to services I no longer use, etc. So now my spreadsheet has multiple tabs, each outlining different categories of things to fix beyond just the images. This work is slow and methodical, and the more I fix, the more I realize needs to be fixed. The list seems to only get longer.

It forced me to consider: what is so enjoyable about this?!?

Which brought me back to the concept of craft, and the craft of how we share our writing and what we create. Here are some reasons this process has felt good to me:

  • I am clear about my mission. I deeply believe in the power of writing, art, and creativity. That when people share what they create, the world is a better place. People not only understand others better, but they understand themselves better. So these blog archives are 13+ years of me meditating on that, and encouraging people to share with more authenticity and success. This archive is my body of work. Attending to that feels good, just as a craft does. Curating and routine maintenance with this matters.
  • I want my work to be useful and accessible. Cleaning up the archives means that if/when someone comes upon my website, that my advice is present. It is clear. It is organized. It is not filled with broken images, broken links, or missing information.
  • I have these archives because I believe they are valuable. If I want them to exist 10 years from now, I need to do the maintenance work now. That means backing things up, removing things that shouldn’t be there, and ensuring everything is correctly mapped. The feeling of honoring my creative work in these archives has fueled me in this process.

Along the way, I have rediscovered essays I forgot I wrote, and even some that align with what I am writing here today. This is one post from 2011 which speaks to the value of backing up your creative work. One quote from that piece:

“The greatest threat to what we create is ourselves. That we don’t take basic measures to preserve what we create – to ensure it will be a lasting legacy, either personally or publicly.”

Here is another from 2012 even more aligned to my message today: Is Your Work Day Filled With Unwanted Obligation or a Burning Desire to Improve? It states: “If you are filled with a burning desire to improve, you will find fulfillment and opportunity. But if you view your craft as obligation, it will be a drudgery where you will find challenges and roadblocks where others find opportunity and serendipity.” That mindset shift is critical.

I often think about the movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which showcases Jiro Ono’s 70+ year history with making sushi. Today he is 97 years old, and he opened his restaurant back in 1965. To me, it highlights the highs and lows of focusing on craft. On the one hand, the pursuit of excellence provides experiences that are rare and beautiful. On the other, the film focuses on the thousands of hours of repetitive work required to try to do each task well in the restaurant. The years — decades — of sacrifice that comes with devotion to craft. It can be easy to celebrate someone who has reached the pinnacle of their craft, in this case, Jiro. But the film also focuses on those who work in the kitchen who are at the start of their careers, still uncertain, still struggling to perfect various aspects of their craft. To me, one of the many questions the film asks is: why would someone want to spend their entire lives in a small kitchen in one restaurant that exists in the hallway of a subway access tunnel, repeating the same actions every day, for decades?

Perhaps you feel that your craft — what you create and how you share it — is drudgery at times. That of course, is valid. I have recently shared my revised Creative Success Pyramid, the system I use to help writers share their work effectively and meaningfully. In conversation with a writer recently, she asked about times when one may feel crushed under the weight of the pyramid. That resonated, the idea that when you have a step-by-step process, that at times it can feel like too much. You feel the presence of every step at once, and it can begin to feel like an obligation.

But that is also why I believe in the power of having a plan and a process. Because this becomes a critical aspect of craft, and of honing it over time. Can you take breaks sometimes? Of course. But the progression allows you to know where you are, and what the next step is, without always falling right back to the start. But more, it allows you to consider with great depth, where you are going and the experiences and connections you hope to create along the way.

I’m curious: do you consider how you share to be a craft? If so, how do you attend to it?