Doing creative work can be embarrassing: putting yourself out there for all to see, waiting to see if anyone responds, all the while unsure which scenario you fear more - someone actually seeing it and responding or no one seeing it. Both sound terrible in the beginning.
I'm sure there are things I probably never published because I felt embarrassed, or maybe things I never said. I'm sure there are projects and ideas I've never shared because I was embarrassed. Somehow I came to think that embarrassment about something before sharing it was a sure sign that the thing would indeed be embarrassing (i.e. a total failure).
And sometimes, I'm sure that's true.
But what if sometimes it isn't? What if sometimes that embarrassed feeling you have about an idea or a project is actually a sign that you're doing something so different that it might just work? What if risking embarrassment is crucial to creative movement?
I started thinking about this a lot after re-watching Beauty and the Beast a few weeks ago.
The 25th anniversary DVD edition came out recently and despite already having a copy from its previous release I had to buy another because of a very special special feature, a conversation between some of my creative heroes: Alan Menken, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bobby Lopez, and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (fun fact: Kristen follows Creative Teacup on Twitter...so you should too...because why wouldn't you want to be like Kristen Anderson-Lopez? Exactly.)
Listening to them all geek out over the artistry that is Beauty and the Beast would have been enough, but then Alan Menken offers a story that is worth all of my $22.99:
He tells the group about the time when he and the lyricist for the film, the late great Howard Ashman, finished the opening song, "Belle." Alan remembers: "[Howard] said, 'We can't send this. We cannot send this to Disney. Who asked us for a...What was it, like, a 7-and-a-half minute opening number?...They're going to laugh at us.'"
Alan assured Howard that they should send it because, "It's good. It's really good!" But, as Alan remembers, Howard was adamant: "He said 'I don't want to send it. I'm embarrassed.'
Alan continued to insist that they should send it, that it was good, that it was worth the risk: "And then [Howard] finally said 'Okay, send it, fine. Send it.' And, you know," Alan recalls, "they liked it."
They liked it so much that twenty-five years later Emma Watson will be singing that song.
Maybe embarrassment isn't always a sign that something is going to be embarrassing - maybe sometimes it's simply a sign that you're doing something so innovative, so new, so different, that not feeling embarrassed would be worrisome.
And sure, maybe sometimes that embarrassing thing will actually be embarrassing. That's the risk of creative work. The great part about that scenario, though, is that it builds embarrassment armor (patent pending), which might just help you keep pushing through to send out the next slightly embarrassing thing that could be something wonderful.
We may not all be Howard Ashman, but who knows? Maybe something you feel embarrassed about might actually be really good. All I know is that there's really only one way to find out.
(Pro Tip: Sending it out begrudgingly works just fine too.)