Art, Generosity, and Life
Art is not a competition.
Art enriches us all.
Life is not a competition, either.
I’ve been working my way through the Great Pottery Throw Down. Set in historic British potteries, it brings a dozen amateur potters together to test their skills. On the surface, this is a competition. Each week, people leave the pottery, and fewer artists move forward. At the end of the season, one person “wins.”
But competition is not at the core of the show. At its heart, we see that what is important to the Great Pottery Throw Down is teaching, sharing, and creating.
One of the main judges—Keith Brymer Jones—is so supportive and enthusiastic that he literally weeps at the beauty of the potters’ creations, and at their bravery and commitment to art and craft. Perseverance is rewarded as much as skill.
The potters themselves root for each other. They help each other when things go wrong. They all send a prayer to the kiln Gods before their wares enter the heated crucible. They clap, and hug in excitement when someone does well.
The real crucible is not the kiln, it is working with the clay itself. The potters are pushed, and tested, and enter the fire of practice.
But these fires are not brutal. These potters are not crushed.
They are supported. Every step of the way.
What might our creativity look like if we felt truly supported? If mentors championed us instead of trying to break us?
What might life be like if we competed only to do our best amid a supportive circle of comrades and friends?
What does community building without manufactured drama look like? What does it feel like? How might that feed our hearts, minds, and souls?
I want a world that supports our lives.
I want a world that encourages us to try things we’ve never tried before.
I want a world where we can laugh with one another and cheer each other on.
I want a world where tears of frustration or joy are accepted.
If we are not in competition with each other, there is a chance for mutuality. For deeper relationship.
If we are not in competition with each other, there is a chance for better work. For more sublime art.
Competition can too often lead to hoarding: of accolades, resources, money, and time. This is all so unnecessary. There is enough to go around. There is an abundance of creativity in the world. There is an abundance of food, housing, and all the other things that life requires.
Generosity nurtures creativity. So, make art, my friends. Live your best life. But let’s make art—and live—in the spirit of generosity, even as we compete within ourselves to do our utmost best.
I’m rooting for you.
This is reader-funded writing. One thousand thanks to my Patreon people. Want to join my Patreon? You ensure that I can offer essays and short stories for free every month, get access to my writing in advance, and get free books a couple of times a year.