on comparing, competing, and creating

There was a time early on in creating this one broken teapot when I knew I wanted to write, and I thought it would probably be for and about women, but the other stuff hadn't coalesced yet.  

One of the things I considered writing about was competition among women, but I kind of threw that out when themes around minimalism for creative-leader-mamas started to become clear.

Now I can see that the competition and comparison discussion has a place here on this blog after all.

I have been amazed and inspired by the consistent sharing and apparent lack of competition in minimalist circles online.  Even though I've had some amazing collaborative theatre experiences, it doesn't look like anything I've seen or done before.

As I continue to simplify, I have space to see that I'd like to do more letting go of competition and comparison to make more room for generosity and kindness.  And one of my special, personal brands of competition and comparison is in the area of creativity.  

This is some hard, vulnerable, mortifying stuff, and if you're anything like me, you don't like to look too closely at it in yourself.

I'm trying to look closely at it anyway.  Because it's important to talk about.  I think.  I hope.


There was a time when I was making a lot of new work.  I knew a lot of people in the world where I was making new work.  I was creating or thinking about creating all the time.

That time has passed.  Now I'm making a little bit of new work.  Slowly.

I have many beloved friends who are making a lot of new work now.  They know a lot of people in the world where I used to make new work.  They are thinking about creating all the time.

A little while ago, a creative-leader-mama friend of mine published a book.  And I love her.  And I was very happy for her in a real way.

And also, I cried.

In a real way.  

I cried in my car after I bought the book with her name on it.  I cried once in the shower (my favorite crying place) when I was in a downward thought spiral about what she had created and what I wasn't creating.  And I cried a time or two while I read the book (and loved it).


This is confusing.    It's especially confusing because I love creative-leader-mamas so damn much that I want to work with them and write for them and explore with them.  And writing about this makes me want to barf.  These are not welcome emotions for me.  Not at all.


Unwelcome as they've been, these emotions are also a gift.  They're making me look hard at where I get my sense of worth as a creator, how important "getting credit" is to me, and the way our lives cycle and phase and ebb and flow.

And they're reminding me that it's okay to be sad about changes in something you love, even if you're the one making those changes.

And this is where some simplifying comes in.  

You know when you finally dig through a box that's been in the back of the closet for who-knows-how-long and the stuff on top is all one thing and you think the whole box is that stuff but you keep unpacking it and lo-and-behold there's something down at the bottom that you totally didn't realize was there?  

So I've kept parsing through and unpacking these feelings, and ... big surprise ...

They're not really about wanting someone else to not have something.  They're not very much about anyone else at all.

They're actually revealing a belief hiding somewhere inside me that there's not enough to go around.  That creativity and collaborators might not be there for me in the amount of time I have for them.  That there might not be a spot for me later on, if time opens up a bit.

I don't particularly want to keep that belief.  I'd like to minimalize that shit away right now.

So I've been trying to prove that pesky belief wrong by distilling my definition of "being creative" down to the essential.

When you take away all the bits about audiences and likes and selling tickets and selling work and who got asked to do what when with whom, creating requires nothing more than using the amount of time of we have--10 minutes, 30 minutes, 6 hours--and doing the work.

Yes, it would be exciting to be in the room five days a week for three or four hours at a stretch making a play with awesome artists.  Maybe for you, it would be luxurious to have a wide canvas, a quiet studio with sunlight streaming in, and a glass of wine to take you late into the night with your paints.  Or coffee-fueled brainstorming meetings with brilliant and connected people riffing around idea after idea after idea.

But that stuff isn't required for making something new.

Making one broken teapot has reminded me:  If we want to create, we can just start doing it. 

And I don't know about you, but I'm much less green-faced over someone else's creative work when I'm doing even a little tiny bit of my own.  

I hope I'm not the only one who has to work on this.  I hope I'm right that women need to talk about the comparison that can happen even when you love your friend.  I hope you don't think I'm an ass.  Okay, I'm going to press publish now.