to be brave with your art.

WMHR-1It is probably the goal of most writers to get their words in front of other human beings. Writers want their writing to be read, right? (Say that three times fast.)

When I first started writing for an audience of zero, it was liberating. I had thoughts and I wrote them down and I hit publish and I questioned nothing. No regrets, no doubt, no worrying, no panic. Just think, type, publish, repeat. Think, type, publish, repeat.

Everything was simple.

Over time, my audience grew to three, and then four, and then five. And then maybe twelve. And then more. I stopped counting. I have no idea how many people are reading this now. I can look up how many people click on this page, sure, but I have no idea how many people are actually reading this. There is a difference. A big difference.

Something weird happens when you start writing for more people. You become acutely aware of what you are saying. You analyze your sentences more often. You write with an open thesaurus because you want to make sure the words you use are the words you actually mean to say. You second guess some of the words, and some of the sentences. You delete this, delete that. Re-write that thing, re-write this thing. I am learning to be a better editor, and I think that is good for me and good for my writing.

But then a tiny wave of panic rolls in, and you start to write something else.

You start writing negative comments in your head, filling in the blanks as you go.

If I say this, they’ll say ____________.
If I say that, they’ll assume___________.
If I say this, they’ll think_________.

And so on and so forth.

It’s….crippling. Pretty soon you’ve written enough one-star reviews to fill up an entire online gossip forum, all based on what? Fear? Doubt? Your own multiplying insecurities?

I’ve recently come to terms with something: I am never going to be a good writer if I write safe. And truth be told: I write safely a lot.

The bigger the audience grows, the safer the stories I tell. I’m going backwards, I can feel it in my bones. God keeps giving me more and more, and I keep telling less and less. I’m writing small instead of big; scared instead of brave.

Enough of that.

I’m writing this today in case you also find yourself going backwards instead of forwards. In case you also find yourself creating art from a place of fear and doubt instead of courage and confidence. Let’s not waste another day crippled by our own insecurities. Let’s take the talent God has placed in our hands and be good stewards of those gifts. Let’s write the truth and use all the paint colors and sing every note and dance with our whole bodies.

Let’s be brave with our art.
Let’s start today.

***

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:10

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20 Responses to to be brave with your art.

  1. Sarah Esh says:

    Yes, I know exactly what you mean. I find myself editing or completely deleting things because of who my audience is, knowing that even though what I want to write isn’t wrong or highly controversial it still is something that some of my regular readers won’t agree with… I want to be my true self and write in that way, not editing myself to please others, but rather refining myself and my giftings to serve God and bring Him glory.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  2. I have always thought your writing to be beautiful and articulate. Don’t be too hard on yourself. <3
    Carrie Sunday´s last blog post ..what i’m reading.

  3. You are my hero. Love this so much.
    Katie Blackburn´s last blog post ..show up everyday

  4. I can relate to this SO SO much! I’ve run a travel and lifestyle blog for around 3 years where I write about travel (obviously) but also about me, things that have happened, honest stuff. For me personally, they’re the posts that have been the most popular: the ones where I’m really honest about things.

    But then, unsurprisingly, people change over the course of 3 years. I’VE changed. But writing about what I now care about, and the opinions I have, and the stories I went to tell (when those stories are sometimes difficult to tell) on my blog is terrifying. Like, what if all my readers hate me? What if they came to my blog to read about my travels and now I’m giving them entries from my diaries circa 2007? Etc etc.

    So, I’ve started taking baby steps: I published something that I would never publish on my blog and instead published it on Medium. And I’m writing a book of all those stories that I’d love to have on my blog but somehow think would work better as a collection of short stories. And I’m trying to be totally honest with myself and my readers, because that’s what leads to people trusting you enough to buy your book, eventually, I think.

    Being honest, and not being afraid of it in your writing is super liberating, but hard. And, you’re right, it IS about being brave.

  5. I love this. As a newer blogger that hopes to start gaining some followers I often worry that what I am writing will not be relatable to the general audience. I have recently been recapping the events of my stroke, but I know that since not many people my age have experienced a stroke that it’s not something many people will find as fascinating as I do. Sometimes I feel like I should just stick to the typical mom blogger type posts. This has inspired me to keep on telling my story even if it doesn’t get as noticed as I hoped that it would, so thank you!

  6. Jen says:

    the bible quote went directly to my facebook status – perfect timing Thank you!!!

  7. Christine says:

    Two things that made me think of you and this post today. First, this video (which my boss sent around to us!): https://vimeo.com/78472610

    And then, because of that video, this poem–which forever is one of my favorites: http://allpoetry.com/So-You-Want-To-Be-A-Writer

    You’re one of the bravest I know, keep it coming. xo

  8. um um um. needed to hear this so bad today.
    Katie @ Lovesoflife.com´s last blog post ..Ocean ease.

  9. Laura says:

    Such a relatable post, for sure. I, too, recall those first blog posts, feeling like it was for me and only me. No one else was “really” paying attention, so, I had nothing to prove, no one to write to. So much has changed, and I needed this reminder to be brave. Thanks, Ashlee.

  10. Kiki says:

    Amen! There are so many moments when I’ll press backspace while writing posts because I start over-thinking about other people’s reactions and if it’s good enough to be read/enjoyed. Thank you for the sweet reminder that we need to be brave and we need to be brave NOW. 🙂
    Kiki´s last blog post ..WHEN YOU FEEL DISCOURAGED.

  11. Saskia says:

    I can relate to your issue, even though I don’t have a blog.
    I have a little etsy shop. When I make a new item, I am very proud of it. However, the more people check it out, without buying anything, the more insecure I get. And even if somebody buys a product, I think: ‘Ugh, they are going to hate that seam here and how I finished that…’.
    Anyway, you go and get bolder with your writing, even though I have always adored your writing and found it inspiring, and I go and get more confident in the gift that I have been given.
    I am looking forward to your coming posts.
    Not that I am never looking forward to them. 😀

  12. Jennifer says:

    I have felt this so much lately! I find now that I know I have family members reading it makes it harder to write completely openly and with raw emotion.

    xo

  13. Callie says:

    I’m one more person actually reading! 🙂 I love reading your blog. From the many blogs I started reading, yours has been the only one I regularly sit down too. Maybe because I discovered your blog whilst we were in the same life stages! But I honestly enjoy every blog post. Be it lactation cookies, to motherhood, to new American labels I’ve never heard of! Your writing is my five minutes of me time and I love it. Xx if you’ve got more ‘brave’ posts up your sleeve, go for it! But I would say your writing is prettying darn honest, and I find, honest and brave go hand in hand. XX

  14. Danielle says:

    Amen!! Cannot wait to read more of your brave writing 🙂

  15. Michelle says:

    Ashlee, I just love this. Yes, I often write with so many what if comments in my head. It’s paralyzing, and stressful and not how we were indented to live. It’s inhibits being authentic, honest, and whole. Three words that I think describe you’re writing. Thank you for this reminder!
    Michelle´s last blog post ..Letting Expectations Melt Away

  16. Jennie says:

    I can so relate. Thank you for beautifully articulating the struggle that many of us writers (and creatives) face on a daily basis.
    Jennie´s last blog post ..Currently | February

  17. Casie says:

    Yes!!!
    Beautiful scripture and way to be brave!

  18. Jessica says:

    Oh Ashlee. I so needed this today. I have been thinking so many of the same things, lately. In point of fact, I have an appointment scheduled on my calendar for today that says “bare it all writing – do not hold back.” I guess there was a reason that I saved reading this blog post until today. <3
    Jessica´s last blog post ..Book of the Month – The Raven Cycle Series

  19. Victoria says:

    So, my friend Kiki invited me over here to read this post!!! I love it and I’m excited to click around to see the rest of your blog! 🙂

    I love to write and there’s something great about knowing that people are reading. BUT. It is soooo easy to let blogging change my writing in ways that I wish it wouldn’t. I’m trying to find the balance!
    Victoria´s last blog post ..Currently pt. 11

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