Guitarist playing acoustic guitar

Why sharing is hard

assessment creativity feedback songwriting songwriting education May 15, 2024

F.O.S.O. (or, Fear of Sharing Out)

A few weeks ago, I was running a workshop on creativity for a group of music educators in Pennsylvania. We had multiple exercises where participants would create and share with each other. Many teachers reflected on how they felt uncomfortable sharing creative work and had to overcome the fear of imperfection to put themselves out there. 

When I asked them to reflect on what was holding them back creatively, their responses included: 

I'm afraid of not being good at something in front of my students. 

I don't feel comfortable sharing creative work, so I'm unsure how to help my students do the same. 

I've never been given the chance to be creative, so I'm afraid that what I make won't be "good" enough. 

These are sentiments that Kat and I have heard time and time again as we work with songwriters and music educators around the country. The fear of sharing is a real fear. Especially for those of us trained in music conservatories or pre-professional programs centered on providing critical feedback, we know how it feels to have our craft ripped apart by others. It can give us a bad case of "F.O.S.O." 

Creating Intentional Spaces

Creating positive spaces for sharing new work does not happen organically most of the time. Instead, it requires attention to the humans in our midst and careful facilitation. We must straddle a line of providing supportive feedback while also acknowledging our own growth trajectory and how we are all on journies to improve as artists. 

You can work with your students or others in your songwriting community to establish guidelines and rules for sharing creative work, answering the following: 

  • What sort of mood do we want to create in our sharing spaces? 
  • How will we deliver feedback (written? or verbal?)?
  • WHO gets to provide feedback to the person sharing?
  • How do we ensure that all voices are heard and honored? 

In thinking about best practices for sharing, we developed an acronym that guides written and verbal feedback. This acronym can also be helpful as a checklist when preparing self- and peer evaluations. Let's explore the idea of "S. H.A.R.E."

Let's break down each of these elements and what they mean. 

S: The feedback should be SINCERE. At times, sarcasm or insincere feedback can make the presenter uncomfortable and insecure. We should always provide feedback that is true and sincere.

H: We should aim to help the creator. Is the feedback HELPFUL? Does it aim to help the artist improve or learn more about how their work is perceived? Will it help them grow? 

A: Feedback should always be ACTIONABLE. Vague feedback without clear action ideas can do more harm than good. What steps could the creator take to use your feedback? 

R: Is the feedback RELEVANT? It can be helpful to establish what you are providing feedback on before someone even shares! Are they looking for input in a specific area? Are they writing to a particular prompt? If so, try to keep the feedback related to what is being discussed and not veer too far into other directions. 

E: Finally, good feedback should be explicit. Ensure the person receiving the feedback understands what you're saying and that you share it in a way that makes sense to them. If it's subjective, be clear about that. 

JOSO is Possible

The Joy of Sharing Out is possible! Through intention and establishing guidelines as a group, we can find ways to deliver meaningful feedback that helps our students grow as artists and feel more connected to the community. 


What about you? How do you engage with meaningful feedback? Let us know in the comments.