As creative artists we have been trained to see things in a particular way which is if you win, then I lose.
We either get the publishing or recording contract or we get rejected.
We either get the gallery show or it goes to some other artist
We either get the sale, or we don’t
In this type of world, it’s fairly easy to see who are the winners and losers of this game. Everyone is in competition with everyone else. Everyone else’s win becomes our loss. If they succeed, then we fail.
We watch as all of these other artists on Twitter and Facebook announce their latest gallery showing, sale, or publication and sometimes we can’t help but cringe inwardly because we know it means that it is yet another opportunity we have lost.
We can’t help but keep score in our head, and eventually we begin to measure our self-worth as an artist by it.
We’re afraid that these other artists are not only going to steal our ideas, but ultimately our paying customers as well
I’m certainly not going to sit here and pretend that I’m immune to these petty feelings of jealousy. Those of you who have been hanging around these parts long enough know that I wrote an entire post about artist envy and beating the green-eyed bastard that certainly doesn’t paint me in the prettiest light. I’ve also written frequently about the futile quest to keep the content scrapers and ne’er-do-wells from stealing your creative work online.
In fact, if one was foolish enough to actually go back and search through the Skinny archives, I would bet there are probably a half a dozen posts that deal directly with my own sense of professional inadequacy and fear of competition (and those are just the ones I’ve published!)
The more time that I spend online, however, the more I am beginning to realize that perhaps I have been looking at this from the wrong perspective.
Perhaps we have simply been asking the wrong questions.
Those of you who watch metaphorical and somewhat shlocky science fiction films may remember the film “The Matrix” that was released in 1999. In the movie, the main character is forced to see the world around him from an entirely new perspective. At one point in the movie the main character Neo is trying to bend a spoon with the power of his mind.
Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Spoon boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Spoon boy: Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.
In other words it all comes down to changing your perspective and the way you see things. The world doesn’t change just because we want it to bend to our will. The world changes when we are able to alter our perception of it.
It’s a leap of faith.
There is no spoon and ultimately there are no other competitors for your creative work
The idea of you competing with another artist is simply a flawed way of looking at things.
The online art world is not a zero-sum game where if someone else wins, you lose.
There is a matrix or web of connections that runs through every online community. Simply by being online we have joined this massive community and have become connected in some way to one another. Every day we can choose to either strengthen these connections or weaken them. We can build those relationships, or we can neglect them. We can embrace them or we can fear them.
For example, if we introduce Artist A to Buyer B and Buyer B ends up purchasing Artist A’s work, then both of them are happy because they each got what they wanted. I know what you’re thinking, well that’s great for them, but what about me? I’m the one who introduced them and I’m the only one who didn’t benefit from the deal, shouldn’t I at least get finders fee or something?
Here’s where it gets interesting, though. Remember you are the one who introduced Artist A to Buyer B, so chances are Artist A likes you at this point and Buyer B is going to think that you are well connected and have your fingers on the pulse of the arts community. In other words, both of them are likely to become your personal ambassadors and start telling everyone just how awesome you are. So maybe you didn’t get the sale, but you got something potentially even more valuable, which is their friendship and respect.
You can bet the next time Artist A talks with someone who is looking for a piece of art, a certain song, or a manuscript that matches your particular writing style — your name will probably be at the top of the list. The same holds true for Buyer B as well……
This is the power of making connections and building relationships that have nothing to do with making your next sale. It’s all about offering something of value to someone else, whether it is a referral, praise for their latest work, or simply a word of encouragement. There’s nothing calculated or mechanical about this — it’s simply what friends do for one another.
In other words, there are no other artists, there are only friends
Once you recognize this, you will discover that it is not everyone else who has changed, it is only yourself.
Welcome to the real world…..
Drew is a writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist creative community. You can also find him online at OutmatchFitness.com where he writes about fitness, nutrition, and his continuing battle with father time.