Creativity, Competition, and Community

Creativity, Competition, and Community January 19, 2020

One of my thesis advisors in graduate school told me, as I was working up my proposal and trying to figure out exactly what I was going to focus on, that building a new argument is a lot harder than tearing down someone else’s. In other words, don’t use this opportunity to only dismantle something. Say something new.

That struck me hard and has stuck with me into other parts of my life. I’ve been thinking about this early life lesson a lot as the New Year puts down roots.

Creating something—whether it is a book, a new coven, a tarot business, a blog, a painting, a ritual, a song—is an act of sharing one’s self. It’s challenging, and it requires a lot of energy. It’s also a sure way to draw criticism from others, even if that criticism is your own negative self-talk. After every open ritual that you worked so hard on, there is always someone who will whisper, “Well, I think you should’ve done it this way.” Every book gets negative reviews, and some of them will be unfair. If you run a coven or circle, someone in your community will eventually say something negative about it. You might even find yourself the subject of a rumor or two (often at the hands of people you’ve never even shared intimate space with, and maybe never even met at all). People in the audience will talk over you as you play your music, waiting for the next act. Your art won’t sell as fast as you want it to, or even at all. You will at times feel awash in a sea of competition as you set up your business, and you will worry that maybe you just aren’t good enough to be here. Your YouTube video or blog will eventually get thumbs down and nasty personal comments (it wouldn’t be the Internet otherwise).

That’s just how creation goes sometimes.

We’re living in a time when creating and sharing our ideas and our art is easier than ever before. It’s exciting to see so many new voices all the time, and to be able to find communities of like minds to encourage and challenge us. But even when things are good, there are still tough things to confront and wrestle with, imposter syndrome and envy being two of the biggest.

I struggle with both of these on the regular. A big part of my personal work in 2020 is tackling these things. What do you do when your community starts to feel like your competition? When everyone is busting ass to promote a book, a Patreon, an Etsy store, a tarot business, a deck, an online course? Does having so many voices drown out any one?

Even though we may understand intellectually that there’s room for everyone and one person’s success is not your own failure, many of us still feel as though we’re not working hard enough, or even just aren’t good enough to be there to begin with.

In the video below I chat more about these feelings, as well as a bit about how I’m going to be addressing my own in the coming year. What it boils down to, though, is this:

✨Put your thing out there. Post the blog, start the Instagram business, publish the book, display the art, submit the workshop proposal, host the ritual, perform the song. Someone will hate it (and they might even tell you), but more people will love it and be encouraging (and they might tell you, too). You’ll never know how awesome you can be until you take that risk.

⭐️Don’t read the comments. I can’t stress this enough. As my professor said, it’s easier to tear someone else down than it is to put your own work out there and subject it to public opinion. If you really want honest feedback, ask people who care about you who you know will be straight with you.

⚡️Don’t compare yourself to others in the same field. Easier said than done, I know, but don’t do it. You are sure to never be the biggest fish in the pond (only one fish gets to be that), so don’t punish yourself for it. Only you can make and do things like you can, so focus on doing that as well as you can. If you find yourself being distracted by envy or doubt, stop exposing yourself needlessly to the things that make you feel bad. Unsubscribe, unfollow, and mute those accounts that feed those feelings. It doesn’t mean you don’t like or don’t support your fellows! It just means you don’t need to look at them all the time.

⭐️Reflect on how far you’ve come, and do this often. Some people keep a gratitude journal, and this can be a great way to stay positive and take that next step forward when you’re feeling low. Whatever your strategy, find a way to call to mind what you have, what you’ve already accomplished, and what you’ve learned along the way.

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