As a writer and an artist, I compete against myself. Yes, I get jealous and yes, I’m cautious about who I make friends with these days, but generally speaking, if you’re another writer or artist, I’m your friend, not your competition.
Within the world of writers, there’s this very pervasive cutthroat nature. People “network” not because they want to help you but oftentimes because they want to use you or use a story you told them. This isn’t always malicious, but for a small-town girl, I sure was put off by it initially and it’s something I still can’t get used to.
I’ve been learning this lesson over and over again, starting from my college days when a really good friend wrote a play surrounding a character he based on me. He doesn’t speak to me now, unless he has something to promote or something he wants from me. Namely, to connect with famous people or more accomplished people I’ve become friends with over the years. I don’t believe in categorizing people by fame and riches. I like to treat everyone as equal, which is probably why people who are often used by others end up trusting me. I don’t “sell” my friends to other friends.
Recently I learned this lesson again when some ‘writer’ asked me for details on a story I’d written. It turns out she wanted to piggy back off my story, and it sounded like she wanted to do it the easy way: by ripping off my sources and insight. She probably wouldn’t credit me. I’ve learned that the hard way. But boy did she kiss my ass. Call it intuition, but I got disgusted by her flattery. The way she’d sweet talk me and say charming things and then when I told her she needed to fuck off (in a nice way, of course!) and go find another story, her sharp cat claws came after me.
I think that’s the first sign of knowing if someone is out to get you or out to compete with you: their flattery knows no bounds but stops when you call people on it. True friends don’t need to flatter each other. What we say means something. We’re genuine. And we certainly aren’t playing a game with our compliments. We either mean it or we don’t.
Today I wanted to put out into the Universe a message to other writers and artists: I’m your friend, not your competition. That certainly doesn’t mean everyone you meet is, or will be, but I am. I’ve wanted and longed for a community of fellow artists (of all different mediums) to be friends with, and while I know that’s not possible with everyone, I know it’s possible with some of you. So, if you’re an artist of any kind (and whether you do art for a living or a hobby), I want to connect. I want to chat. I want to get to know you. And my hope is, in doing so, that we can all help each other and celebrate how cool it is to be a creator.
Above art is by Fede Saenz, an American-Argentenian artist and isn’t it gorgeous?