"I had a very strong belief — I still do — that the act of going public is a very important decision. Everything you do from the point when you go public is part of the public record and is out there and you cannot get it back. Anything before the time when you go public is nobody’s business, and you don’t have to talk about it, you don’t have to show it, you’re not responsible, you can destroy it all, or whatever."-Chuck Close
Chuck raises an excellent point here. In this day and age, where sharing our work is not only easy, but practically free, we are encouraged to expose our work while still learning or in art school. Could we actually be stifling our own innovation? It is an interesting point of view to consider. If you gain a little success now, could you be forced to find a personal style too early and in the long run miss out on developing into a greater artist? I think this can be readily seen on Flickr. There are photographers there, who post up their images (generally these will be self portraits or levitation pictures - two themes that seem very in vogue) and have achieved modest success. However it also seems common that those who get a following then feel they have to justify themselves to their tribe / community for doing something different. This surely creates a road block to their innovation or the development of their ideas. Even if you don't find immediate interest in your work, as you develop as an artist, you run the risk that your earlier work may mar your credibility. It is something that shouldn't be taken lightly.
On the other hand I have just finished reading Seth Godin's (a leading marketeer and author of several books on the subject) latest book Poke the box. In his book, Seth is devoted to getting his readers to take action and innovate through trial and error. He argues that the most successful people consistently deliver, regardless of success or failure and that true success can only be found through a perseverance to create. Certainly the earlier you can get your work in front of an audience the earlier you can get critical feedback. This can help you not only establish the viability of your work, but also help you develop it further. Even if the idea is a non-starter, a real melon, can it truly taint your reputation? Or more likely, does it instead show that you are as fallible as the rest of us and in turn expose a human side that we can more easily relate to?