CREATIVITY, IT'S NOT A COMPETITION SPORT - 21 JULY 2012
Slot Canyon Colors - Lower Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ, File# 1230125
The last couple of weeks I've been considering several different articles about creativity to discuss here on this blog. I thought of a couple good ideas but unfortunately, none of them made it from my mind, through the keyboard onto the internet. I'm not sure why I didn't produce any of those articles. That is until I considered a couple things on my ride up here to Ruidoso. The thing I thought about most was how competitive we seem to be and how even when we're being creative, there's some aspect of competition going on there. I'm certainly not saying competition and creativity is bad. But, I am saying you don't need to be competitive to be creative, hence the title, "Creativity, it's not a competitive sport".
A few years back when the digital age was relatively new I was a member of a few different photography forums. Back then, the whole internet thing was mostly new. There certainly wasn't a Facebook. There wasn't even Twitter. Web 2.0 was still pie-and-the-sky-stuff if you knew anything about the internet. Most of us that did participate in these on-line forums were probably on the cutting edge of internet communication--meaning we could all have been termed geeks. It's not a bad thing. It's just what was.
What I found most enjoyable in those internet forums was the tremendous ability to see other people's work. I also got to display my own art. Those days were awesome. I remember checking the forums diligently especially when I posted one of my own pictures on-line. I remember checking if anyone wrote a comment on my newly posted picture. Mostly, I was looking for positive comments, the type that might rub you the right way. If I got comments, great. If I got glowing comments, really great. If I got lots and lots of glowing comments, really really great. I guess the measure of success was if the number of comments on my pictures were similar to those posted on the pictures of other photographers I respected and admired. I figured if a picture generated a lot of buzz and comments, then there had to be a certain quality to the image to make people go out of their way to say something.
After a while, the text of the comments were less important than the simple number of comments--good or bad. I began to use the number of comments as the assessment of the picture. And, that assessment had nothing to do with image's real quality.
Clearly there's something not quite right when the quality check of an image isn't the image itself but something as disconnected as numbers of comments on an online forum.
What was going on here? Well, my desired feedback on these online forums transitioned from the words they wrote to simply "I'm better than... (insert photographer's name here) because my images have more comments." It became a numbers game instead of opportunity to better the quality of my art through critiques.
I guess what happened was instead of getting real honest and constructive criticism, I got simple short synopsis on the over-all quality--i.e. "great, awesome, good job..." Since I wasn't learning anything constructive with these comments, I think I changed my expectations to how I compared to the other photographers--i.e. it became a competition.
Being creative is not a competition sport.
Sure there are lots and lots of competitions and judging opportunities out there for all forms of art. Just cause there are so many doesn't mean it's the only way to express your creative talents. On the contrary, what I found is if you try to create your art to satisfy some sort of competition, you lose control of your own art. In those situations you're meeting someone else's quality standard, not your own. As I've said many times before, the only worthwhile element in any piece of art is you, the artist.
Here's another observation which you've heard before here; "if you aren't willing to fail you'll never make anything really creative". What that means when you're in a competition to win, you aren't willing to come in last. When you're accepting of the possibility your art might come in last, you're willing to try different things that might not ring well with the judges.
Okay, competitions are obvious win/lose contests. That's not the only way to be competitive. You might be competitive with yourself as in you're hell bent on doing your next piece of art better than the previous. The same logic applies here. You might actually find yourself frozen with that paint-brush barely floating above the canvas simply because you might not do as well as you think with that next brush stroke
Do you remember finger painting when you were a kid? If that was too long ago how about if you remember seeing your kids finger paint? Do you think any of them were competing with their peers? I remember just loving making and mixing colors. I remember making a mess. I remember loving the experience. There was no competition. There was simply the experience. The win was to be there fully immersed. You couldn't lose in other words. It was fantastic.
Somewhere along the line creativity became a sport. If you consider this article, being competitive might mean we're making art that doesn't satisfy. Even if you're not submitting to a competition and you're not satisfied with where you're going with your art, you might consider if you're competing with yourself. It could be the reason you aren't satisfied is every step of the way you're second guessing yourself wondering if you're doing it "right". I bet if you get away from the idea that everything you do has to be "right" you'll begin to relieve self-imposed constraints and begin to enjoy the experience of making art. Remember, being creative is not a competitive sport, even if you're competing with yourself.