Why Artists Put Each Other Down (And What Happens When You Don't)
Nobody Wants You To Succeed
Or so it seems.
There are no guarantees. There is no 12-step program, and everyone who succeeded in the creative realm has come about it differently. Living the artist’s life is hard, and at times, it really sucks. But it’s worth noting that if such a life were easy, great works (and the great people behind them) would never exist.
So imagine this scenario (and maybe you’ve already lived it): You’ve been working your ass off for years. Project after project, strained effort after strained effort, and while there has been some success, perhaps you feel as though you’ve plateaued. Pair that with the fact that one of your friends, or an acquaintance, or a new artist you’ve never met has recently had some luck with their work - and guess what? Now you’re feeling jealous.
You wonder how they got there before you and if you’ll even get there at all. Mix these thoughts up with social media and the illusion that everyone is way more productive than you, and it’s hard to keep your cool. Soon, without even realizing it, you're projecting your negativity onto others and inhibiting your own creativity. You're like Anakin Skywalker on his way to becoming Vader, man.
But you're not alone. Anton Chekov, famed Russian playwright and short story writer, once said: “Writers are as jealous as pigeons.”
Speaking of writers, this clip from Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris captures this feeling beautifully…
As the fictional representation of Ernest Hemingway says, “If it’s bad, I’ll hate it because I hate bad writing. If it’s good, I’ll be envious and hate it all the more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.”
But is this really true? Does envy really drive us to loathe and compete with our fellow artists?
The (Career-Changing) Choice Is Yours
As artists, we have the opportunity to empower a collaborative and supportive environment with our artistic peers, or turn a cold shoulder and brave the hurricane winds alone. That said, there are some great books out there providing evidence that giving generously can significantly boost your long-term success - ultimately outweighing the short-term gains of "takers".
So think of the people that helped you along the way. Think of the friend or mentor who introduced you to your passion and pushed you to persevere. Think of the feedback, both honest and constructive, that drove you to create something better. Think of the pride that those words instilled in you. Think of what it would be like to give that feeling to someone else.
Go to your friends who are artists, check out their work as you have asked them to look at yours. Give them the feedback that will inspire them to become the best at whatever they hope to achieve. Offer your time and your best ideas, and always aim to go one step further for them. People like it when you show genuine interest in their success - they'll usually look for ways to reciprocate.
Be that person for your community, and before you know it, you'll have built a network of artists that thrive and support one another in the midst of both failure and success. You'll push your industry into a new and more positive direction - all while bettering yourself, your work, and the works of others.
Amazing Things Will Happen
We leave you with Conan O’Brien. Before watching this clip, just consider the fact that this comes from his last Tonight Show broadcast - a show that he dreamed of hosting for decades, a show that was being taken from him after a very short run. Imagine what was going through his head. Imagine the depression, anger, uncertainty, and thoughts of failure that were bubbling to the surface. Despite all of that, he left us with this…