I don’t know why this idea persists that competition and the arts are odd bed sisters. But it does.
I know that for years, competition had so much sport’s testosterone slathered over it that I cringed just to hear the word.
Then one time, when I made sure I got to a local potter’s studio right when she opened (I had a hankering for this lovely, tiny bowl that was actually a small nesting bird), my friends who were meeting me there “accused” me of being highly competitive because I got the bowl and about 3 other items that simply called to me.
Well, blown me down! If you never!
If I’d been asked to list ten-thousand adjectives about myself, competitive would have never showed up.
I didn’t play sports. Didn’t enter contests. Never felt elated when I got a better test score than someone else, or a better grade in school.
And yet, there I was clearly getting a head start so I’d have first dibs at the potter’s studio.
Of course, that time the competitive label came with a derogatory implication that somehow what I’d done was unfriendly. I remember the sting of feeling emotionally ostracized the rest of the day – but not to the point of giving up my bird bowl!
In re-imagining this distant past, I realize I also had another emotion that…got buried: a thrill that I got that bird bowl and no one else did!
All these black marks against competition have taken me years to scrub clean.
But scrub I have, and now competition comes with either a neutral response or one of excitement.
Over time I’ve learned that…
Competition Is One of Your Best Friends
- Competition means there is a market out there – which includes you!
- Competition challenges you to raise the bar for yourself.
- Competition does not have to be one-up/one-down. It can be a win-win.
- Competition is there in some form no matter what, so why not learn from it?
- Competition can be your mentor.
When I’m coaching one-on-one, I encourage artists to take a good, long look at their competition – especially those other artists who are managing their art careers really well.
Read about them. Go to their exhibits, if that’s feasible. Meet them and strike up a conversation. Ask questions about their career path, their philosophy of art, what keeps them going.
Because, the real key to competition, I believe, is your attitude toward it.
If you claim any degree of disdain, which is actually a fear cleverly disguised as intellectual one-ups-manship, or pooh-pooh the notion that you are paying any attention at all to competition because it’s “beneath” you, or ignoring the very real effects of competition inside your art world (the hide-your-head-in-the-sand stand), then you are giving away chance you have to get competition to work for you instead of against you.
Because, what you choose to believe about competition is within your control.
Here’s one of my favorite “let’s take a look inside” questions: the 1-to-10 Scale (where the first number that pops up is the only one you count!):
On a scale of 1 to 10 (1=I wish all competition would disappear / 10=intrigued & empowered by competition), where does your competition attitude fall?
I think you’ll agree with me that one of the ways competition really shows up is in art sales.
When you see another artist making sales, and you aren’t, all kinds of competitive oriented questions come up, especially ones related to “That work? I just don’t get it!”
If you would like to know how some of your colleagues handle the stress of selling their art…
…and find out more about your own relationship with selling art (even if you love everything involved with selling art, this Blue Stocking Art Salon transcript + workbook will take you to a higher level)…