A close-up photograph of sharpened colouring pencils

Celebrating the success of others takes away nothing from your own.

I originally published this post on the Portsmouth and Southsea Consortium‘s Website in May 2017 as part of the PortsConsort Postcard series.

When was the last time someone told you they really liked your work? What about the last time someone told someone else they really liked your work – are you able to think of that? And… What about the last time you told someone that you really liked someone else’s work – do you know when that was?

One of the things we set out to when we founded the Consortium was to provide a platform to showcase the work of creative practitioners in and around our local area, and to encourage those within this community to promote one another’s work. We even had our own Twitter hour for a while, but decided to suspend that for the foreseeable future.

As much as we were engaging with this type of promotional activity, others weren’t that interested. Those who encouraged us to promote their work didn’t respond particularly enthusiastically to our efforts, and the cross-promotion between members was practically non-existent. This isn’t said to chastise or shame anyone, but more as a remarkable observation of one of the group behaviours of a contemporary creative community. It left us thinking why so many are so hesitant to share others’ work, or to shout about this.

It feeds back into previous discussion on competition in our creative communities: It appears that there’s increasing concern – even fear, in some cases – that celebrating the creativity of others is the same as advertising or marketing their goods and services; something you wouldn’t typically do without a guaranteed return on your investment of effort, resources and time, and certainly not at the expense of putting the same into promoting what you make and/or do.

When ‘social creativity’ first emerged in the early 2000s, members of creative communities the World over came together to celebrate one another’s ideas and innovations; however, over the past few years, the advent of, for example, organised Twitter hours has meant there’s been decreasing desire from within these creative communities to engage with one another in this way – there’s someone out there who’ll do it for you, meaning that not only can you devote any time you would have spent helping others share their work to your own practices, you don’t even have to think about it. Factor in the increasing emphasis on individuals and independent businesses to behave like corporate giants, and you have everyone leaving anything that resembles celebrating or promoting others’ work to, well, others.

What’s forgotten or ignored often these days is that individuals and independent businesses are still reliant on small and supportive communities to grow – and this includes both contemporaries and ‘competitors’. And this is the world into which new creative practitioners are entering. These behaviours are the ones they see normalised, and these will be the ones they seek to emulate. They’ll most probably not worry about reaching out to others working in different disciplines or with different ideas; they’ll probably grow and remain exclusively competitive and corporate in their approaches – risking becoming defensive and insular when it comes to their own work, not just protective.

As some of the first to take steps into this work of enterprise and entrepreneurship, it’s perhaps time to go back to the social start of our endeavours, and to the life lesson that celebrating the success of another takes away nothing from our own. As we move forward, and think about new and different ways in which we engage with showcasing the work of those in our creative community, we wonder how we can provide examples of best practice others might choose to follow – a difficult task, considering the Consortium doesn’t have specific creative outputs of its own.

So, for the meantime, we guess it’s over to you. If you don’t typically share or shout about what others do, we’d encourage you to think about why this is, and to perhaps experiment with doing so. See, for a while, what impact this has on your own practices. If you already celebrate your creative colleagues and peers, reach out to others in your creative community and share why you do what you do. If we’re all here for one another, then we have to make the choice to move forward together – occasionally, in ways we might not, or no longer, typically expect to do so.

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