Back in the old days, if you wanted to publish something you’d created, you to send it to a publisher or a magazine and hope for the best. Of course, these days, publishing your work can just involve is just clicking “upload” or “submit” on whatever art, video streaming and/or blogging sites you prefer.
Yes, it doesn’t have the prestige of professional and/or print publication (and you probably can’t really call yourself a “published author” if you just put your own stuff online) but it can be useful if you’re starting out/still learning, if you’re intimidated by the world of professional publication and/or if you enjoy sharing your creative works.
Now, if you’re practicing writing and/or practicing drawing or painting regularly, you’ll end up producing a lot of stuff. Of course, it’s up to you how much of it you do or don’t put on the internet. Personally, I tend to err towards putting most of what I create on the internet but some people only put what they feel to be their best work on the internet.
Whilst I can’t really talk extensively about the latter of these two things, I thought that I’d write a list of the pros and cons of putting most of what you create online in case you are unsure whether or not to go down this route.
Although, I should point out that I’ll probably be focusing more on the pros rather than the cons – so, read a few other articles before making up your mind about this subject.
The Pros Of Putting Most Of What You Create Online:
1) A large body of work: If someone looks at one piece of your work and likes what they see, then they’ll probably want to see more of it. If you have lots of your own work on your site, then there’s even more for them to look at than if you’ve only put a small portion of your own work online. In fact, if they like a few things that you’ve created, then they’ll probably end up becoming a fan of your work in general.
Not only that, having lots of stuff on your site can help you to feel more like a creative person too. After all, if you’re ever feeling uninspired or uncreative, then a quick glance at the large amount of stuff in your gallery/blog/Youtube account etc.. can help you to feel like a creative person again.
2) Backups: Putting most of your stuff online also serves as an additional backup in case of computer problems (especially if you upload to multiple websites). Although you should obviously keep non-online backups of everything you create too.
For example, I had some fairly bad computer problems in autumn 2010 and eventually ended up losing a fair amount of data. Whilst I was able to salvage most of what I’d written and drawn up until sometime in 2009 from backup discs and memory sticks, I’d forgotten to make any backups in 2010. This was a pretty stupid mistake.
Whilst I permanantly lost a few short stories, the digital copies of most of the art I’d produced back then would have also been lost (and I really didn’t feel like re-scanning and re-editing 100+ drawings) were it not for the fact that I was able to just go over to my DeviantART gallery and download most of it relatively quickly.
So, yes, putting most of your stuff online can be a good way to preserve it for at least as long as the website you’re using still exists.
3) Motivation: Posting things online at regular intervals has a certain momentum to it. After you’ve done it for a while, you’ll probably want to keep it going. As such, posting most of what you create online can be a good way to stay motivated.
4) It’ll get copied/shared: If you post anything on a publically-viewable part of the internet, then you have to assume that at least some of the people who look at it will probably copy it and/or share it. Whatever your views are about copyright, this will probably still happen regardless.
However, I’d argue that this is mostly a good thing – especially if you’re just starting out. I can’t remember who said this, but there’s a brilliant quote which goes something along the lines of “the enemy of new artists isn’t piracy, it is obscurity”. In other words, if people like your work enough to share it, then this is basically a type of free advertising for you.
5) It may attract professional publication: Well, we can all dream….
Seriously though, if your work is pulling in a very large number of views, then this may be worth mentioning if you want to publish something else professionally. After all, if there’s a large pre-existing audience for what you create, then this means that at least a portion of these people are guaranteed to buy something of yours which is published professionally.
However, unless you’re lucky enough to pull in thousands of views on a regular basis at the very least, then this might not appeal to publishers..
6) Honesty & Criticism: If you put most of what you create online, then you can’t be a perfectionist. In other words, you’re probably going to end up putting some crappy things online. This isn’t an entirely bad thing if you’re honest about it in the comments/descriptions accompanying your work. No, I’m serious.
For starters, it forces you to be honest about your own work and to point out when and how you make mistakes (and how to avoid them in future). If you don’t notice mistakes in your work, then someone is probably going to point them out to you. So, being honest about when you’ve screwed up can also pre-empt some criticism too.
However, if someone gives you constructive criticism online (eg: “This drawing is good, but the perspective is totally wrong”), then remember to be polite and to think about what they’ve said. In fact, even non-constructive criticism (eg: “This is awful”) can sometimes also help you to think about what you need to improve.
In addition to this, being honest about when you produce things which aren’t great (and actually showing them) can be reassuring to people who are absolute beginners in your own area of creativity. After all, if you only ever see things which are “perfect” when you’re learning something new, then this can sometimes be kind of intimidating – even if it also gives you something to aim towards.
However, if you see something which is slightly flawed by someone who has also produced some fairly good things, then you’re more likely to think “well, as long as I keep trying, then it’s ok to make mistakes occasionally” and be more likely to keep practicing.
Plus, if you see something absolutely terrible, then you’ll probably think “hell, even I can make something better than that“. Apparently, this exact thought has launched more than a few creative careers (I remember reading somewhere that Shaun Hutson was originally inspired to start writing horror fiction after he read a badly-written horror novel and thought that he could do better).
The Cons Of Putting Most Of What You Create Online:
1) It may hinder professional publication: There are obviously exceptions to this, but from all I’ve read and heard about the subject, professional publishers are mainly interested in publishing things which haven’t been published anywhere else before.
This is pretty much for purely financial reasons – after all, they want to be the only place that distributes a particular creative work.
So, whilst putting things online might have a lot of benefits, it might also make it more difficult for those things to get published professionally. So, if you’re serious about professionally publishing something you’ve made, then it probably isn’t a good idea to put it online.
2) Criticism: If you put a fair amount of stuff online, then there are going to be a few people who will criticise at least some of it.
Whilst constructive criticism is often useful and even non-constructive criticism (eg: “This is awful”) can also help you to think about what to improve, you shouldn’t put things online if you’re worried about the possibility that they will be criticised or disliked by some people. Although, of course, most people who dislike what you create will probably just not bother looking at any more of it rather than leaving comments about it.
3) Self-censorship: Putting something you’ve made onto a site where anyone can look at it might make you feel like you have to censor yourself. Likewise, different sites have different policies about what is and isn’t allowed on their sites (or what can only be posted with viewing restrictions that reduce your potential audience – eg: the “mature content” category on DeviantART) and this might also make you pre-emptively censor yourself if you’re putting most of what you create online.
4) It’ll get copied/shared: I mentioned the good aspects of this earlier in the article, but it’s something to bear in mind if you’re an absolute traditionalist when it comes to your own copyrights.
If you’re uncomfortable with even the possibility that people might share or copy whatever you put online, then it might be worth keeping most of your creations offline.
Although this article mostly focuses on the pros rather than the cons, I hope that it was useful nonetheless 🙂