Column: Grow Your Fan Base By Sharing Your Creative Process

It used to be that an artist toiled in solitude, sometimes for years, then finally emerged with a finished piece of work, which she then published, showed at a gallery, or shared on stage. It was a cycle of seclusion followed by public unveiling, repeated over and over.

brain gears shareThat’s so 20th century. We’ve entered the Era of Sharing, from what we had for breakfast to who we slept with last night. Too much information has become the new norm, and what we were taught as little kids to be a virtue has turned into Kardashian levels of over-sharing about absolutely nothing of value.

But what if you, as a creative, could use this new era to your advantage? And I don’t mean by getting your own terrible reality show.

One of the biggest challenges we face is engaging our audience. Especially now with the overwhelming number of options for potential fans, it’s much tougher to not only grab their attention the first time, but also keep them engaged for the long haul.

One way to do this is to share your creative process. I don’t mean you ask for opinions – it can be dangerous to get feedback when you’re still finding your legs with a project – but that you share it so your fans feel a tiny piece of ownership of your work, as if they were part of its creation. You give them a window into your process to give them a deeper connection to the finished product, which means they’re more likely to not only buy it, but also to become fans for life.

Artist Michael Miro is creating 50 glass pieces that explore the major plays at the heart of Kabuki, the traditional Japanese drama, and he’s sharing the creation of those pieces from start to finish with the public.

Miro said, “In art the process is paramount for me. It’s not about the finished piece it’s about what happens in the process of creating art that motivates me. Art is about making choices and solving the problems that those choices create.”

He explained, “If I choose to do something, the kiln interacts with that choice, the piece is changed and then another choice is made at that point. I prefer to not really have a clear idea in mind of the end piece but prefer to experience the evolution of the work. The internet allows me to share the process showing each step.”

He went on to say he also wants to share the process so people can better understand the glass-making process. So they don’t simply have an, “Ooh, pretty!” response (my words, not Miro’s), but they can learn about the many layers of skill and talent involved.

How could you apply this to your creative work? Let’s look at some examples:

Writers: If you’re writing a long work – say, a novel or memoir – you could post short excerpts on your blog. Your readers would still need to buy the book, but you could give them a taste of what to expect, and since the writing would be top-notch – don’t share those early, rough drafts – it would whet their appetite for more.

Photographers: Give your fans the logistics of the project you’re shooting – location, equipment, time of day, camera settings – in your newsletter or on Facebook, your blog, or website. You may even inspire them to take their cameras and go out and try for those shots themselves, which would only be a good thing. You’re demystifying the process, and when your gorgeous work comes out, you’re also proving the artistry in what you do, far beyond the logistics.

Musicians: Put photos from your recording sessions and demo versions of the songs on your website. Again, this is assuming the demos are good, but it’s fun for the listener to hear the stripped down version of a song before the fully produced album version. And don’t be afraid to show some personality – a mistake or two will only endear you further. You might be a rock star but you’re also human, and your fans will love you even more for showing it.

Artists: You can obviously follow Miro’s lead, but you could also share sketches or even your thought process behind the work. Tell your fans on your website: what inspired you to paint cows? Or sculpt all the Greek gods and goddesses? Draw your fans closer by letting them into your creative mind.

Would you share your creative process with the public? Let me know.

This column originally appeared in The Taos News. Photo credit:

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  1. Love it. Great ideas for sharing. It can be so easy to be secretive and protective of the creative process. “Ooooh somebody might steal my idea”. This is a great perspective and reminds me that the more you share the more you get back!

    • Garrett,

      Glad you liked the column! I totally agree about sharing – there’s definitely a place for it in the creative process.


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