Last weekend, Jeff made a dangerous suggestion to me. “Let’s go to Barnes & Noble.” He knows it’s one of my favorite places to browse and I often walk out with at least one book or magazine in a bag.
I have my normal route through the store. I check out the magazines, the bargain books, decorating and design, business, poetry, and art sections. Last week, I ended up with a stack of books and periodicals from the Time special issue on creativity to a reprint of a Better Homes & Gardens decorating book from the 1960s. I had more material than I could read in a month.
While I was waiting in line, cradling the stack in my arms, a nearby table of children’s books caught my attention. The largest book on the table showed a dinosaur wearing a guilty look and the title We Don’t Eat Our Classmates. I was tempted to step out of line and flip through the book, so I could get a sense of the story, but the load in my arms and my own imagination prevented me from doing so.
I actually wanted to remain ignorant of the book’s story because, in my head, I was making up my own story. It wasn’t a children’s book, though, and it didn’t feature a dinosaur.
My story was set in a community of creatives at a time when they felt like the world wasn’t big enough for all of them. So, they began to consume one another, taking bites at those who made them feel threatened. It wasn’t overt, though. It was critical comments masked in anonymity. It was passive-aggressive accusations. It was cloaked remarks about “some artists” or “some writers” or “some designers.” It was gossipy conversations and private thoughts stoked with jealousy. It was people feeling insecure and utterly human and, in the moment, not rising above it.
If we’re gut-wrenchingly honest, I think we have all been in that world. We’ve all been easily offended, prickly, and overly concerned with others. We’ve all felt anxiety that makes us look with suspicion at other creatives. We’ve all felt like it’s a race with only one winner. We’ve all felt the pang of jealousy, feeling like someone else’s gain is our loss.
In many, many cases, someone else’s creative gain is a win for us, too. Success is not a scarce commodity that is rationed or in limited supply. It is infinite. When that is recognized, one can live easily and joyfully among the gifted and talented. In fact, we are all better and more creative when we are a part of a community of brilliant, innovative, and talented people. And that community will flourish when the members are nurtured, encouraged, and heralded.
Friends, we do not eat our creative confrères.*
But, we often do. Me included. And that’s why the story unfolded so vividly in my mind as I waited to buy my ridiculous stack of reading materials. It was vivid because it’s true. Not always, but it’s true enough.
Whenever we feel that temptation, we need to remind ourselves that the creative journey is not survival of the fittest. It’s not eat-or-be-eaten. It’s your journey and it’s my journey. It’s her journey and his journey.
And there is room for us all.
*Confrère – (noun) a fellow member of a profession; a colleague
Very well said, thank you. One note, not a criticism just an observation and it may be my computer, but the text on this site is really, really light. My eye sight is average and I’m finding it a little hard to read — would hate for someone to miss out on the great things you have to say because they were struggling to see it.
So true, so honest and makes one think…….especially before we speak. Well done, Marian!
Wow, your post was spot on with an issue in my heart. God has been calling me out in this very behavior, and your post just confirmed it even more.
Thank you Marion for your words of wisdom .
I find as a creative that the invention of the internet has been a gift to share our talents and yet, I feel it also isolates us from that very community we need to thrive.
I see the conversation online, but there is a strong desire to connect in person with others to share and grow. When we are in community with others in their presence, we see and feel the true human interaction and grow.
I am working in this heart issue and I see my need to seek out that local community to help strengthen my character, rather than let the internet feed my insecurities.
Thank you for your honesty.
Well said, and more often true than I want to admit. Thanks for the “wake up” call to rise above that kind of thinking that so easily besets all of us at times.