Collaboration Versus Competition
Back when I was starting out, writers were in friendly (and sometimes not so friendly) competition with one another. This competitive climate was driven largely by the fact that access to publishers and publication was restrictive, and (in the academic scene at least) a lot depended upon whom you knew and whether or not they liked and recommended you. Access to the major and lesser publishing houses is, of course, still highly restricted, but their sphere of influence is not what it once was. Writers now have alternatives—with self-publishing becoming more mainstream everyday.
But, in addition to leveling the playing field considerably, the Internet has done much to alter the basic nature of the relationship between artists—from somewhat competitive to generally more collaborative. There are a lot of reasons driving this as a general shift or trend. Here are just a few:
Artists have always formed successful collaborative relationships, so I’m not talking about something entirely new. But writers and artists of every genre are recognizing that they are fundamentally not in competition with one another. Your audience is in all likelihood not my audience, and, besides, we are part of a global marketplace of 6.9 billion people. It’s a big place. We have far more to gain by collaborating and sharing information and resources than by adopting some outmoded, competitive stance. From a marketing standpoint, it’s a brand-new game. Most of us are just trying to figure stuff out as fast as we can to discover what works. There’s never been a time when holding your cards close to your vest made less sense.
I’ll take this one step further and suggest that this shift is actually part of a much larger global shift. This new wired-world of ours generally works better collaboratively than it does competitively. To be sure, it’s still a very competitive world, but this shift towards more collaborative models of working is pervasive and inevitable. I’ve been watching this trend in my corporate consulting work for years now—with the development of virtual global teams and cross-organizational cooperation.
Since we writers (and artists generally) are usually resource-constrained, collaborative efforts are even more advantageous to all concerned—especially when it comes to leveraging technology to build platforms for our work.
Finally, the Internet is providing us with so many more points of contact and ways to work collaboratively. It has never been easier to work with other artists, regardless of their geographical location. The single, biggest limitation on all of us is time, but then there’s nothing new about that.
Finally, a new poem to start out the week:
With some, compassion takes root
In their suffering and gives birth
To a fiery impulse to serve,
Merely turn bitter
While some assume
They are alone in their pain,
That they are not
© 2011 Press Forward Publications, Richard Geller, Madison CT