There Is No Competition In Creative Work (There, I Said It!)
In the creative sphere, there is truly no competition.
Allow me to explain. In the physical world, there is a finite amount of real estate. This creates competition. For example, I live in Portland, where the land within the city limits is finite and all claimed. Thus, there is intense competition and high prices for real estate. Tough for home buying!
If we zoom way out and imagine Earth from space, we can see that the amount of land is also finite. While there may be a few volcanoes and enterprising engineers in Dubai creating new real estate, other land is being lost to erosion or rising sea levels at the same time. We have a finite amount of land area, and so if we want to stake a claim for a spot on it, we are in competition. When you buy a house, or a piece of land, another person or family loses the opportunity for that space until you free it up. Conflict over land and resources is born out of competition for the finite physical space here on Earth.
The realm of creative ideas doesn't work like this.
In the realm of creative ideas, there are no limits or boundaries. There will never be a day when we’ve thought of the last possible idea and built the last possible new creative thing. There is no competition because there is an infinite amount of potential. There is space for all of us.
I like to imagine a giant cloud—not constrained by the atmosphere, but able to expand into space infinitely. The cloud is the repository of all ideas and creations, and all of us are benefiting from it and adding to it. Artists are pushing themselves to the farthest reaches of the cloud, creating new territory all the time by bringing new creative ideas into life.
As creative beings, we are creating new real estate in the land of what is possible.
I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot as I’ve been knee-deep in up-leveling everything about my creative work this year. I've built a new website, created new online courses, and painted new paintings. I’ve come to realize that I’m building my own super-sweet little world in my corner of this giant cloud. (perhaps it’s no coincidence that my metaphor and the internet are both clouds!), Anyone who joins me in my world is in for a treat. I imagine all of our websites and creative offerings to be like a giant Epcot Center in the clouds. Epcot Center is a theme park made by Disney, where you can "travel the world" and visit mini-versions of dozens of different countries, all along one boulevard. The cloud of creative ideas is like that to me - you can travel through and visit dozens of different worlds, all built in one big collective space.
I know what you're thinking.
You’re thinking, “There’s plenty of competition in the creative arts, Annamieka! If I paint flowers, I’m in competition with other flower painters. I’m in competition with other painters of my medium. I’m in competition with painters in my local area. If I get the client’s business, the competitor loses that business!”
Well, I disagree. I admit to facing these types of thoughts of scarcity and “limited real estate” at times. However, I think it’s the wrong way to look at it.
If you paint flowers, once you've developed a style, then your way of painting flowers is totally different than the way someone else paints flowers. The unique combination of your style, technique, medium, materials, and your story makes you and all other flower painters as different and specialized as flower species are from each other. For all you know, that client may buy BOTH your painting and your “competitor’s” paintings!
If you teach classes, there are many other variables that come into play. Again, the student may take your art class AND your “competitor’s,” or recommend your class to a friend for whom you’d be perfect. Ideally the student can evaluate the wonderful array of choices and pick the guide that resonates with them most clearly. Our classes should be filled with enthusiastic, well-matched students!
Supporting each other for the win.
You may be aware of the strong support and collaboration between artists. I see it a lot between women artists, as an example. These partnerships have proven to be beneficial on so many levels! Artist peers co-create and support each other. More established artists help educate those who are emerging or less experienced; and new and emerging artists remind more established artists of the wonder & joy of beginning. Collaborations are formed; referrals are made—this is good for everyone involved.
I asked my participants in my year-long course, Let's Go Deep, to consider this: when you see artists doing work or creating offerings that inspire you, instead of thinking, “I can’t believe that idea is taken! I should have thought of that first,” - let yourself be inspired! You can take that inspiration, distill it through your own experiences and techniques, connect it with the umpteen millions of other unique things you know, and make something new and true to you.
And as a part of this month's lesson, we took time to examine our influences, from early childhood, education, and our careers as they are now. We wrote a love letter to our influences, and really honored them and got into a state of gratitude. Then, I invited everyone to define a period of time, and go on an "influence fast." From this place of gratitude, and conscious separation from our influences, we are diving into our creative work. Now, once again, I feel it is imperative to approach creative work from the perspective that it is yours and it is NEEDED. Let me say it again: your unique creative work is needed in this world.
It isn’t competition: you’re creating MORE opportunities for the world by getting clear on your truth and doing your creative work. Your artwork, paintings, classes, offerings, and ideas add more room to the always-expanding cloud. You have a right to do so! Every one of us is creative and has something special to share. The cloud will never be full. There is room for all of it. And you are not taking away an opportunity from anyone else, by following your own creative path.
This is a conversation that I am leading this month in my year-long mentorship program, Let's Go Deep. I am inviting participants to consider, and debate, this idea of competition in creative work. I think it is vitally important to examine our belief system when we are embarking upon creative work. I insist: There is room for all of us in the great, collective cloud of ideas.
The more we create, the more there is for everyone.
The next time you become anxious about creative block, competition, or creative envy, imagine that giant, fluffy cloud of creative content (like Adobe’s Creative Cloud but universal and infinite!). Imagine that by doing your creative work, you are whipping up more fluffy, delicious, creative goodness for everyone to share. You're building your own little world off on the edge of what's already been created. You're adding to it. There is no limit, no boundary. The more we create, the more there is for everyone!
Let's Go Deep:
It’s already month two of my year-long course, Let’s Go Deep! Leading this course has been a revelation. I LOVE it so far. Month Two is all about uncovering our WHY: why we make the art that we make. As a part of uncovering our why, we are:
- Reflecting upon who we are, who we love, and what we stand for.
- Asking ourselves, “What do I want to impact of my work to be?” and identifying our why from that place.
- Putting our past work "in the blender" to find our own visual language. (like you see me doing above)
- Writing a love letter to our influences.
- Consciously choosing to take a break from our influences.
- Acknowledging that there is no competition in creative work, when we are really tapped into our WHY.
- Diving into our creative work!
- Last month, May, was all about PREPARATION
- Next month, July, is all about HOW to do the work.
Q: Let's Go Deep started May 1st. Am I too late? Can I still register?
A: Let's Go Deep began May 1st but it's not too late - you can still join us for the year. As a late registrant you'll be able to jump into the course, dive right in, and you'll schedule your complimentary 30-min introductory 1-on-1 call with me to get your year kick-started right!
We are traveling on a learning arc, however, so I will not leave registration open forever. I will decide to close registration when it feels like we have covered so much ground that a late-comer wouldn't be able to adequately catch up. I want everyone to get the full impact & value of the program. So if you're thinking of joining us this year - please do, and sign up now!