Maybe you perfect a new kind of potato chip then see it in the grocery store the next day. Or you have a great theme going in your novel, a fresh idea for a blog, or you finish an article for the Huffington Post only to find someone – inevitably a better-known someone – submitted the same idea ahead of you. Someone beat you to it. This sort of thing happens, and it just happened to me, again.
This happens to the best of us, and it happens a lot. What is a writer to do? What is an entrepreneur to do? Do we bury our efforts in the back yard? Worry that others will claim we stole their ideas? Do we toss our efforts into the communal lake of abandoned dreams because someone with more celebrity already laid claim to them? Or do we put that work out into the creative ether, despite any misgivings?
I say give it to the ether.
Giving up on your idea or project is (in effect) giving up on yourself. That will not sit well in your psyche. It doesn’t matter if someone else beat you to it. Once your creativity takes root on the page or anywhere else, the next natural step is to nurture it by allowing it all the sun and nutrients it needs to blossom as the flower it was meant to be. The alternative is to die on the vine, as it were. Don’t let that happen. Ever.
Creativity is proof of life. We write. We paint. We study. We restore prairies. We choreograph. We bake. We tinker in the workshop, the garage, the classroom and the lab. We come up with ideas. And this, in and of itself, is personally fulfilling—to create and to be creative. But leaving our creations in the closet (literally or figuratively) hinders our ability to transform the world around us. Plants need light. People need light. Our creations need light. They need the nurturing light of a larger community where they are accepted and incorporated into the grand scheme of growth that we all participate in and draw sustenance from. And all growth follows the cycle of a seed: moving from germ to sprout, to plant, to flower, then back again with new seed that holds all potential for the next creative cycle.
To fully flower, then, means to bring our efforts out into the world—out into the open.
In the foreword to David Bohm’s book, On Creativity, Lee Nichol paraphrases Bohm’s warning that “if we fail to understand how essential creativity is to our lives, we may well perish from a lack of it. After all, it is through a continual open and creative stance, with a willingness to bring our creations out into the open, that our lives become truly meaningful.”
So, here are my seven reasons to put yourself (and your work) out there even when someone else beat you to it:
1. It will be new to many, whether you are out with it first or not. Ten or ten million connections could come from that, each carrying enormous potential.
2. It will create more movement and opportunity in your life. Once you send out what you have, a conversation with others begins.
3. Everyone benefits from your investment in what is creative and meaningful to you. Life depends on diversity and opportunity.
4. You make it unique in some way. You are an ingredient in the creation as well as an influence upon it; your internal mechanics and your perspective guarantee something fresh.
5. Putting your work out there results in feelings of fulfillment, purpose and happiness (albeit risky). As Stephen King says, “Life is not a support system for art; it’s the other way around.”
6. Movement is evidence of life. Movement begets more movement. It might not be obvious or soon but something dynamic and positive will happen because you shared yourself, and your work. Quantum physicist David Bohm refers to this as “creating the movement in which there is the constant unfoldment of still more comprehensive meaning.”
7. Don’t believe everything you think. Note those times when you think your creations are not worth the light of day. The truth is that they are, no matter what. The natural law of motion challenges your assumptions this way. In fact being actively creative by putting ourselves out there typically challenges our assumptive postures.
“Creativity, in almost every area of life, is blocked by a wide range of rigidly held assumptions that are taken for granted by society as a whole.” – David Bohm, “Dialogue as a New Creative Order” from The Essential David Bohm.
Not long ago, I had an unusual encounter in the parking lot of our small-town grocery store. As I got out of my car a man drove by and stuck his head out his truck window.
“Where’d you get that bumper sticker?” he said, nodding toward my car.
“At the feminist bookstore in Madison,” I said.
“So you like the saying?” I asked. He was quite animated and excited about this sticker.
“Well, no, the color of it.” he said, “I’ve done something with that color that has saved women’s lives.”
For a flash I wondered if I heard him right. Then he added, “You’ll see,” and drove off to park his truck.
Later I encountered him shopping and he gave me a conspiratorial smile. He trusted that I would find out what he meant.
The bumper sticker’s color was a light blue. A color we have all seen. Clearly he didn’t let this infringe on his enthusiasm to take his creation, the color he’d come up with, out into the world. The plus for me was what the bumper sticker said.
The saying on the bumper sticker: “Don’t believe everything you think.” Unless you are assuming you rock.
Bohm, David. On Creativity. 2nd ed. Edited by Lee Nichol. Oxford: Routledge,
———. The Essential David Bohm. Edited by Lee Nichol. London: Routledge,
———. Unfolding Meaning: A Weekend of Dialogue with David Bohm. Oxford: