Do we live in a world where artists must fight tooth and nail with one another, where statistics make artistry a bad career choice? Is the frequent animosity one witnesses among artists a simple matter of Darwinian survival?
Perhaps these are questions each artist must answer for him or herself, but I’m going to give you some reasons why artists are not in competition, reasons that I hope you’ll find plausible and worthy of consideration. And in the end, you may stand against the mercurial winds of the artistic life as a collaborator, or as a competitor. It’s up to you. It has always been up to you, I suppose. And whichever path you choose, I wish you nothing but the best in your quest for success, whatever your artistic medium may be.
I am an author, and in my relatively short tenure (6 months published, a few years self-published), I have seen a lot of interesting things. Unfortunately, I have seen far more hate than support from other artists. This has discouraged me at times. But I suppose that those few who have supported me along my highly challenging but deeply rewarding path, those who have believed in me, nurtured me, even helped mold who I am as an artist today, those collaborators are enough to keep me going. They are proof that the competitors could be wrong.
My publisher, Cheryl Kaye Tardif at Imajin Books, who has taught and encouraged me profoundly, recently attended an event of mine for a self-published book. When I was surprised and asked her about this, she said, “I’m not just your publisher, I’m also your author friend.”
Both Elizabeth Spraig (a.k.a. Riley Adams), bestselling mystery writer for Penguin Books, and Jeff Bennington, bestseller in the horror genre, believed by many to be the Stephen King of the 21st century, wrote reviews for my first published novel, Pelican Bay, despite the fact that they both have families and are busy beyond my comprehension.
Then there are the fellow authors who I have met through my publisher or online, wonderful collaborators who have amazed, guided, and rejuvenated me time and time again. I don’t know what I would do without you.
What makes the difference between collaborators and competitors? Perhaps we need to rephrase the question. What makes competitors think that they are right?
Well, there are statistics. But with the Internet and 21st century technology, the world is small once again. We could all be Elvis making his way to that first little radio station, only now in Cyber Tennessee. If you are an artist with the talent to really touch people with your art, and you’re willing to work hard through advertising and social media, is finding and growing an audience really so fantastic, so statistically unlikely? There are millions upon millions of people just looking for an artist to enjoy, every second of every day. Also, if you must quote statistics, there are more audience members than there are artists. Finally, based on global statistics, one out of every three humans should be Asian. Are you Asian?
Perhaps competitors think that there just isn’t room for more artists in a given genre. Think again. If this were true, the Kindle Store would go out of business, book stores would all close their doors, etc, etc. The truth is, in a world with many artists, just like snowflakes, no single artist is the same. That is why your audience is looking for you. I find it so sad that many artists never follow their dream; they are cheating both themselves and their audience who will never enjoy their work. Just like one can never create another snowflake the same, one can never create another “you.” Perhaps competitors are those who have just not realized yet that to be jealous or hateful of another, is to really say, “I don’t think I’m as unique or as good as him or her.”
If we collaborate, that really means that we believe in our own talent as artists, in our own uniqueness, and by supporting others, we are really supporting ourselves, too. As we help them fine tune their uniqueness, we also further discover our own, as well as learn new ways to find our special audience that is just waiting for us.
Yes, they’re waiting for you. Please don’t disappoint them.
Be a collaborator, not a competitor. If you’re one of those people who believe in hedging your bet, think of believing in collaboration as similar to believing in possibility. If you believe in possibility, the most that you can lose is that you’ll always be open-minded to new things (for the philosophical among you, see Pascal’s Wager). That’s not so bad. If you believe in collaboration, the worst thing that can happen is that you will have many friends and learn to love yourself more and be a happier person.
Now ask yourself, what is the worst thing that can happen if you follow the path of the competitor …?
Yours in literature,
Collaborating Artists I Dedicate This Post To (Click on their names for their info)
Laurence St. John
Jaspreet Mann Kanwar
Elizabeth Spraig (Riley Adams)
Cheryl Kaye Tardif
Jessie B. Tyson