We’ve all heard it before. You are what you eat. I’ve always hated this phrase because if it’s true, based on what I consume the most of, I’d be a 24 ounce cup of bubbly, fizzy soda pop. I like to think there’s more to me than the massive amounts of Diet Coke I down each day, and I’m quite certain there is.

So if I could change it, I’d coin my own term by adding just a few extra letters to the original phrase. You are what you create.

We all create on a daily basis whether we are aware of it or not. From choosing our children’s outfits for school to organizing a dinner menu, our brains are constantly putting things together, constantly creating on levels both large and small.

It’s in our blood to create. It’s who we are. Just look all around at the creation that surrounds us. There’s creativity at work even in the littlest of things. Watch a spider as it dexterously weaves its web, fashioning an intricate tapestry of thread. Watch a toddler as he stacks his colorful wooden blocks to form a tower as tall as he. In nearly everything we do, there is some level of creativity pouring out of us.

Sometimes our creations are solely for ourselves. Other times they are intended for others. And sometimes, what begins as a creation meant to satisfy an inner desire, a drive to try something new, turns into something that others get the chance to experience as well.

When I wrote TRACED I wasn’t even sure that anyone’s eyes other than my own would ever see it. I felt compelled to get the words out, felt led to fabricate this story that was filling my mind and keeping me awake at night. But what’s interesting about creating something is that we’re wired to want to share it. For those that play an instrument, composing a piece and playing it for others is the ultimate use of their gift. For those that love cooking, there is nothing more satisfying than preparing a four course meal for friends and family. When we create, we want others to share in the culmination of our efforts.

But sharing can be scary. Terrifying, actually. When we create, it’s something that’s in us that comes out. There’s a vulnerability in letting others in, in putting yourself out there. Because when you do, you’re inviting critique. You’re inviting assessment. Because just as much as it’s in our nature to create, it’s in our nature to formulate opinions based on those creations. And that’s a great thing. These opinions are what shape us, what define our likes and dislikes, our preferences and our tastes.

And we all have differences of opinion, which is what makes us unique. I know I wouldn’t want to live in a world where we were all the same, where we all liked the same things. Difference of opinion–and having that freedom–is even at the heart of our society. We’re allowed the choice to support something, to like something, and to even dislike it.

What’s harder is being on the receiving end of those differences. I’d experienced it with my photography–known that not everyone would love my style, the way I photographed, or even the subjects I chose to photograph. But I forced myself to not take it personally. So they didn’t like one photo–no biggie. I liked it and my client loved it and that’s who I created it for.

So I figured writing a book wouldn’t be all that different. I mean, of course I knew there are people that don’t like the dystopian genre. There are those that aren’t fond of love triangles where the protagonist has to choose between two equally likeable guys. There are some that just don’t like young adult fiction. I got that because there are plenty of literary works that aren’t my cup of tea, either. I have my preferences, too. So I figured I’d easily be able to separate myself from the reviews, both good and bad. Shouldn’t be too hard now, should it?

Umm…wrong.

Feedback is powerful thing. Hearing that someone loves the story, that they connected with the characters and can’t wait to read more about their journey ushers in a feeling that is nearly indescribable. It’s the applause for the musician after he has played his composition. It’s the five star review for the chef that prepared a meal with his own hands. It’s the knowledge that something you poured yourself into was well received. That the risk you took in opening yourself up–in exposing yourself–was entirely worth it.

Will everyone like your creation? No, of course not. That just comes with the (incredibly scary) territory. But you’ll never know unless you put yourself out there. If you don’t try out for that school play, if you don’t paint that mural, if you don’t write that book, you’ll never know. And to me, never knowing is even more frightening than the fear of potential failure.

So keep creating, keep sharing, and keep critiquing. And who knows, maybe your willingness to shed your own fears will one day lead someone else to step out and do the same. And even if that’s the only thing that results from your attempt at vulnerability, then it’s entirely worth it in my opinion.