We Are With You – On supportive creative communities

Yesterday, I facilitated my “Present Out Loud” workshop at Balticon (the Maryland Regional Science Fiction/Fantasy convention). The workshop is on how to present/read your work at bookstore events, interviews, audio narrations, and workshops. We worked on breath technique, voicing, characterization, and how to differentiate your narrator from your characters and their dialogue. But mostly, we worked on confidence.

About fifteen people participated. Their confidence level varied from ready to rock to terrified of even being in the room.

This is all intro to my favorite part of the workshop. One of the men who got up to read was surprised at how frightened he got.

“Oh! I just got nervous. Super nervous,” he said as he stood up to read. “I wasn’t nervous a few seconds ago, but now my heart is racing!”

He stood up, read, and did his best. He rushed and tripped over words but got through it. I gave him feedback on what he did well and how he could improve. He took his feedback well, but I could tell he was still a roiling mess on the inside when he sat down.

I had said the following at the beginning and kept reinforcing it throughout the workshop. I repeated it to him right then.

“Something we all need to remember,” I looked at him while I spoke. “Is that no one wants us to fail. If someone comes to hear you read your work, they aren’t interested in seeing you screw up. They are hoping you will do great, and they will be entertained. So, please remember, we have all been there. We have all had to stand up in front of others to read or show or speak. Anyone who has ever had to stand up in front of a class and do a book report knows how it feels. We all know how nerve-wracking it can be. Remember,” I emphasized this last part. “We are with you.”

“Thank you,” he breathed. “I needed to hear that.”

That is crucial to remember. We are all in this together. Even if people aren’t creating now, even if they have put away their art, we have all had creative impulses. They might have been decades ago, but at some point, we had the urge to impact the world around us with our expression. And more importantly, we wanted to show that expression to someone. It is a fundamental way of communicating.

“Here,” it says. “Here is a sliver of how my soul views this crazy, confusing, incredible world. How does your soul see what I have made?”

Even if we don’t have the supportive, connective words in the moment to give constructive feedback or critique, a part of us resonates with the vulnerability of sharing our creativity. So, if someone pans what you have created, please remember it is tinged with their momentary inability to connect their perception of the universe with your expression of it.

My thoughts on critique and feedback run to this: First, connect your perception to the artist’s expression. Acknowledge those commonalities. Find the thread that relates their heart to yours. Comment on that first. And then critique. But remember to do it from that connection. Then, you will both have a more intimate experience of both the art and each other. And that’s the best part of it all.

What about all of you? How do you perceive and respond to feedback and critique? Do you find some is easier to embrace? What works? What doesn’t work?

Sending you all of my love.

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