I’ve just recently had a son come out of the womb and into the world. He’s our second child now and you’d better believe I’m one proud papa. Yeah, It’s pretty awesome. I must say, his arrival has sparked many a thought about life, fatherhood, and even creativity into my sleep-deprived mind.
One thing I’ve considered is how his relationship with his older sister will develop. I think back on my own relationships with my siblings and how they have changed over the years. I hope the two will be good friends and that, together, they’ll be better humans than they would have been apart.
This got me thinking about competition, specifically the creative sort. I think competition can be a very healthy thing, but it can also be harmful with the wrong motivation. It’s good for kids to compete against each other; it pushes them to try harder and do better than they would have otherwise.
Competition teaches the victor the reward of hard work and the defeated how to deal with failure. It provides an excellent opportunity for everyone involved to learn about good sportsmanship.
But I’ve seen many adults take competition to a nasty place, where they are driven by a constant need to prove themselves, to outdo everyone else—a place where they are never satisfied with what they have but must continue to outdo themselves or else feel like an utter failure. They live by an impossible standard. This attitude causes people to sacrifice their own standards and integrity in order to win, it's why the use of performance enhancers like steroids has become such an issue in professional sports.
The harmful sort of competition can be just as prevalent in creative circles. Writers, cooks, film directors, musicians, fashion designers, etc. can get to a place where they must do better than everyone else to prove their self-worth. This sort will never pass an opportunity to attack their competition. They will cheat to get ahead if that’s what it takes. In the end, such behavior hurts creativity, rather than promotes it.
It’s like being a hoarder with your creativity, unwilling to share, in case there won’t be enough appreciation and admiration to go around. Just like hoarders, such a life becomes disgusting quickly and inevitably drives others away—not just the competitors, but also allies and friends.
Instead, why not share what you have and encourage your peers to do the same? Teach someone less experienced than you and speak well of your competitors. The world is big enough for every creative to find an audience. As a writer, the more I work on writing well and helping others to do the same, the better writing will be available for readers and, as a result, we'll discover more readers who enjoy our works. It's a self-sustaining goal.
Yes, creative competition is great. I think C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien were good examples of this. But, just as in their case, creativity should be seen as a team effort, one based on encouraging one another to press upward and onward to become more creative.
Hey Creatives, do you find competition to be a boon or a hinderance to your creativity? Let us know in the comments below.