Release Your Work

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Updated July 28, 2022

You’re reading an excerpt of Creative Doing, by Herbert Lui. 75 practical techniques to unlock creative potential in your work, hobby, or next career. Purchase now for instant, lifetime access to the book.

When you release your work, you show the world—and yourself—that you are worth the space. You declare it. You get used to sharing your work, even if it’s not your best, or if it’s not perfect. You tell yourself, as Lindsay Jean Thomson said, “I have a right to be here. I have a right to create. I have a right to be seen and appreciated.” In addition to building your confidence, releasing your work can produce interesting tangible outcomes—whether it’s new opportunities, feedback, or lessons you learn about yourself.

Now that you’ve put some work together, it’s time for you to release something. Make it the main focus of your day. If you are releasing your work on a social network, just upload your work, release it, and then go on Airplane Mode. Do something else, so you’re not worrying about how it performs.

It might feel natural for you to seek validation, especially early on if you’re uncertain of your work, but the residue of the data will take up a lot of attention. And if it falls below your expectations, then the feedback (or lack thereof) might feel discouraging. It’s more fruitful to spend the time enjoying yourself, at least.

I’d encourage you to reward yourself after you release your work, regardless of how other people receive it. If you’re anything like me, releasing your work will be scary and involve checking your phone or computer a dozen times an hour to see if anyone liked it. This could put you into an unproductive headspace. After all, we don’t control how other people receive our work—only if and how we release it.

Consider actor and filmmaker Tommy Wiseau, who created and starred in the cult classic The Room. While he may have been making a genuine attempt to make a critically acclaimed film, it was not well received, or even taken seriously. Still, people loved it for different reasons. As actor and filmmaker James Franco puts it, “The Room is not the worst movie. It is the best worst movie.” And in an unpredictable outcome, Wiseau ended up making his living as a filmmaker. There was also the notorious creative process of filming The Room, which Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell document in the memoir The Disaster Artist. The Disaster Artist and The Room then served as Franco and Seth Rogen’s own departure point for their film, titled after the memoir.

Imagine all of the other movies as badly made as The Room that we will never hear about. And yet, it worked. This is why creative work is, at best, probabilistic; there will always be outliers, and The Room is one of them. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a principle to learn here: if Wiseau hadn’t made and released the movie, then he would have had a very different career arc. Ultimately, investing in, shooting, producing, releasing, promoting, and distributing The Room may have been the best decision he made for his creative work, and for the artists who were inspired by his story.

Make Something You Won’t Ever Show Anyone Else

In Minor Feelings, poet Cathy Park Hong writes, “We say we don’t care about audience, but it is a lie. Poets can be obsessed with status and are some of the most ingratiating people I know. … A poet’s precious avenue for mainstream success is through an award system dependent on the painstaking compromise of a jury panel, which can often guarantee that the anointed book will be free of aesthetic or political risk.”

All too often, considering an audience gets in the way of creative work. It’s not an easy habit or thought pattern to break; even if you think you’re not making for an audience, you’ve gotten into the practice of it. The key is to practice making something you’ll never show anyone else. In doing this, you’re gaining valuable feedback from yourself.

One of Dacoury Natche’s collaborators, Donald Glover (who makes music as Childish Gambino) has talked about the importance of making work that you won’t show anyone else. Glover says, “Making songs now that I know aren’t going to be heard by anybody else, it is an interesting thing. Because I think you have to do that now as an artist. I really do. Because you start to manipulate your work based on other people, which is fine depending on what you’re trying to do.”

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