I had worked away quietly. Improved my photos, made new paintings, expanded with happy little bookmarks. Put piece after piece together. Sweated in silence. Now it was time to speak up, to invite the world and reveal my hard work. I was proud of my effort. I was excited.
I did a last check, nervously adjusted my display and then cracked the door open. I held my breath as some curious faces wandered around my very own Etsy shop, looked, clicked, sent a few hearts my way. They left, some new arrived.
I waited, I hoped. I pushed forward the discount posters.
Time passed and people came and went without buying anything. The merciless zero right below my banner remained. I started fiddling. Making last minute marketing.
Desperation crept near. I was sure everyone could smell it on me, but I couldn't stop myself.
And the crickets howled.
After a week of effort and nervously checking my stats, I sank down at my desk and concluded that the first week as an Etsy seller had been slightly underwhelming. I wondered what others thought. What I'd done wrong. I was tired, disappointed and most all I wanted to shut the door and go hide under a blanket.
I'd caught a share hangover.
Diagnosis: share hangover
It's unavoidable if you're a person who share your creativity with the world.
You share something with certain hopes and those hopes get smashed down. There you are, being all brave and you get no credit for it.
Maybe it's a story that reveal a piece of your soul and nobody cares. Maybe it's your best work and all you hear are crickets. Maybe it's the first time you dare to share anything like it.
Instead of shrugging off the disappointment, you slip and land hard on that butt of yours.
Common symptoms include sharp embarrassment, diffuse pain a little here and there, overwhelming shame, distrust in your creativity, an urge to delete your work, strong longing to hide or run away and a sudden lack of self-confidence.
It's a nuisance that can be painful but the good news is that it's quite easily treated, if it doesn't go untreated for too long.
It's only when you let it fester uncontrolled that you really risk hurting your creativity.
So before that happens, let's have a look at how you can crawl out of that damp hole and get back on track. I used this prescription to treat my share hangover after I launched my Etsy shop, and I swear, it got me back on my creative feet in less than a week.
We'll do this together, okay?
The cure of a share hangover
Once I understood that I had indeed caught a share hangover, I slowed down and kindly put myself through the following steps.
Step 1: Feel all the feels
In case you're wondering, it's okay to be disappointed. It's okay to feel angry, hurt, ashamed or just plain sad. It's okay to cry, eat a bowl of ice cream or go on an angry run. It's okay to be a little bit grumpy.
When I caught my share hangover, I was cranky and fatigued. I ate chocolate and felt sorry for myself. But I refrained from two things, and I think you should too.
First, I didn't delete or destroy any creative work. This is not the time for destruction, even though it may very much feel like it.
Secondly, I didn't let my disappointment spill out on the world. The world is never responsible for our creations and for responding in a way we approve of. The world will do whatever it wants and that's exactly how it should be.
Sulk away, but sulk to someone who gets it. Another creative or just a generally sympathetic person, who understands that sharing isn't always easy.
Step 2: Take a little step back
A share hangover can make you feel fed up with your creativity, the outside world, or both. You may want to run away or try to fix everything you think you did wrong, instantly. You may want to "make up" for your so-called failure. Prove to yourself that you are someone worthy of praise.
My experience is that what you create when you're frustrated and filled with doubt doesn't turn out very well. Quite the opposite actually, which then leads to a downward spiral you don't want to be in.
Instead, take a step back. Fill your head with other things, be it some other creative project or something completely different. May I suggest lots of tea and a good book? Can't possibly make it worse, right?
I read Big Magic and let Elizabeth Gilbert's wisdom calm me and slowly bring me back into the right creative mindset.
Step 3: Remind yourself of why you create
You don't want to stay away from your creativity for too long, a week should be enough if this wasn't some huge thing. Then you need to start circling back into creating again, starting with your internal why.
Why did you make that thing you shared? What love drove you to make it? Why did it delight and inspire you?
My answer was that I like to paint and Etsy in particular seems fun. None of those have changed, even if I'd bruised my confidence a tad. So, I knew I wanted to get back to it.
Now hold onto that why, very close to your heart, and let it slowly lure back your inspiration and determination.
Step 4: Understand that this IS just a tiny part of your journey
The creative journey is long and unexpected. Not every step is easy or fun, and you might get stuck with your foot in a swamp for a while.
All of that is normal.
Hard, uninspiring and disappointing paths are part of the journey. You just have to get through them. That's the world testing your dedication.
Once I got over my initial self-pity party, I reminded myself that many Etsy shops struggle in the beginning. It's normal and it's okay. Did I imagine a handful of sales to celebrate the start of this part of my journey? Yes. Did it happen? No. Is it the end of the world? No. Then time had come to put that behind me and move forward.
Step 5: Get out there again
I got back to my Etsy shop. I tended to my paintings, researched how Etsy works and started planning for new art prints. The sales will come when they come and I'll be a stubbornly happy Etsy shop owner either way.
Now it's your turn. You're ready, I promise.
You're ready to make and share. You're ready to ask yourself whether your expectations are off or if you can do something different. You're ready to let go of the need for certain outcomes and let things just work out however they want.
Is it uncomfortable? That's normal. Do it anyway.
Go be a brave creative again. Claim your spot on the dance floor. Crank up the music and be a super star or a newbie. Let people stare or ignore you. Just do your thing, no matter what the world say or don't say.
Because, here's the truth: your creativity is worthy of a place in the world no matter what the response is. So go share it!