Monday, February 18, 2008

Originality, communication, and other issues

I woke this morning, feeling troubled. One of my favorite lists erupted yesterday, with some comments becoming heated, others placating, and leaving the sour taste of behind-the-scenes conversation. It's so difficult, this flatness of the written word, coupled with the eagerness to get out there, to communicate with others of a like mind, the need to drink in a feeling of community, and the wish to feel we are part of something, we share and share alike, and it is appreciated.

Frankly, I'm ignorant of the ways of those who steal other's ideas and pawn them off as their own. I don't understand the jealousy that is sometimes generated by the creation of a stupendously, movingly, beautiful piece of art. I mean, I know it's out there - I know that the theft of ideas, patterns, formulas, and that horrible jealousy of others' original thought DOES occur - but I have always, always believed that there are more who are appreciative than jealous, more who are giving than taking, and I get blind-sided every time this kind of issue occurs. I find such joy just knowing that I live in the same world where someone can create such beauty, how could I turn it ugly with jealousy and competition?

It's happened to me in the past, I know. It happened a lot, both during the establishment of my soapmaking business and the opening of our brick & mortar store in 2001. Although I will probably never forget the woman who had the store next to ours, the one who paraded around town as some sort of lost southern socialite, and announced to our mutual customers that she knew for a fact that I didn't make my soaps, and she had located the maker of the soaps and was also carrying the same ones, I don't expect people to act like that. That one shop owner alone "got" me a couple of times, hurt me severely, and deliberately went out of her way to impact my business. The same is true of another shop owner in that small town. Despite the wild and varied number of gift supply sources, he would come under the guise of friendship and commiseration, and then "lift" the sources I had worked so hard to find. It was so unexpected to me, that it felt as though I'd been thumped in the back, had the wind knocked right out of me, and then I felt further betrayed when I found that the town's regular customers had lined up and taken sides. It was ugly. It convinced me that I wasn't cut out for retail work, and it broke my heart. I thought I was making a difference, that I was providing joy and hope and outlets for artists - and I was - but that angered some people.

What causes the kind of heart in that fellow shop-owner that, when asked "Isn't this store beautiful?" the response is "YES! And it makes me sick!" followed by storming out the door? How in the world can you create beauty, set a lovely table, make a window vignette, when your soul is cancered with jealousy? And when you do your best to copy that neighboring vignette, right down to the cluster of tea cups on ribbons suspended in the window, do you really feel any joy over what you've created? Is your sole source of joy that little voice that says "I showed HER! I made something that looks exactly the same, she thinks she's so smart..."?

So now I find that this occurs in some quarters of the online art world as well. The tempests have been there before, and I've known of them, but I forget them. My heart wants to believe that those creativity thieves, those who have nothing original of their own to claim, are an infinitesimally small minority...and once again, the tempests, and the name calling and the soul scorching catches me by surprise and leaves me saddened.

As an aside, I know the friendship manipulators are out there too. I saw it way back when I was a sysop for INN - the people who pretend to be someone or something they are not, the people who stir the pot and sit back and watch the cat-fight. I know they are out there, but I also believe you can only hide your true nature for so long, and that your personality does come out in your writing eventually, and so I will continue to hope for the best in the development of my cyber pen-pals, as well.

I believe in online friendships, and support, and community, and a meeting of the minds. I think that all we can generate and create is magnified by a meeting of the minds, and I hunger for those meetings. I want to believe the best in people, no matter how many times I'm proven wrong, or I swear my soul will fry and wither. I don't want to waken feeling this saddened again; I will focus on the beauty and joy and thought-provoking discussions I've found, and do my best to nourish and support.

PS - See my reading list there, off to the right? Read Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral, and remind yourself of all the things that are wonderful about real girlfriends.


Phyl said...

Oh, Sue!I remember the incident at your beautiful
shop here w/the lady in the
"other" shop copying your cute tea cups hanging in
the window!We had some
laughs over her; didn't we?
I miss your wonderful shop
and its luscious mingled
fragrances that met me at
the door!But don't worry about anyone copying your wonderful handmade soaps...
it's impossible!Sorry your
online group argued;they
are envious.I'm off to find the sounds intriguing!

Shashi Nayagam said...

Sue, like you I was feeling rather sad but this morning I woke up to an ad which made me look at it in a different light. The ad started off like this "someone copying you is the greatest compliment they can pay you" may not have been the exact words but the gist was that and I thought wow isn't that just so true. They copy because they think it is beautiful and they can't do it on their own. Funny it should have taken a silly ad to open my eyes.
Its a bright sunny morning here and not so cold. A good day to make something creative.

Michelle said...

I think you and I woke up on with the same mind-set Sue. Sorry your having troubles with those jealous and inconsiderate souls in the world. After a while it makes one feel jaded about the world :( Sending positive energy your way!