There is a lot to celebrate in the world, like births, graduations, promotions and other major life events. However, we also cherish the little things: tender moments spent with our loved ones, the sense of tranquility we feel when we go to the beach or the mountains and minute details like the taste of pumpkin cheesecake. Someone out there loved pumpkin cheesecake so much that they declared a National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day.
Local, national, and international days are typically observed to raise awareness, encourage action or simply commemorate an event. In many cases, they draw attention to the things that we might forget about as we navigate our day-to-day lives. One day in particular that I’d like to call attention to is National Swap Ideas Day on September 10. It’s exactly what it sounds like — a day dedicated to sharing new ideas with your friends, colleagues or even strangers.
Artists and writers thrive on new ideas, and they are capable of drawing inspiration from any source. Many of these ideas may come from other people, and artists often welcome suggestions from their peers. Likewise, receiving feedback is necessary in order to further develop their craft and achieve the results they desire. Some forms of art, particularly the performing arts, depend entirely on working with others — musicians work with their stand partners to ensure perfect harmony, recording artists work with multiple writers, producers and other artists to create hits, and the show cannot go on without a full cast of actors, technicians, and designers.
However, as with many other endeavors in our modern society, artists are pressured into competition and individualism. Emerging artists are criticized for releasing multiple collaborations with established performers. Artists like Beyonce who have multiple writers on some of their most popular songs are not viewed as “talented” compared to the singers that write all their songs solo. Authors are viewed with skepticism for using ghostwriters, although many popular books are rumored to be ghostwritten such as the Goosebumps series. In fields like photojournalism, aspiring journalists often have to rely on connections with higher-ups to get ahead, which harms peer relationships and has led to a myriad of problems with abuse and harassment. Even outside of professional industries, creators often keep their works to themselves, typically due to fear of judgment, backlash or even plagiarism.
This is not to say that we should throw all caution to the wind and share our work without protecting ourselves and our creations. There is good reason to wait until your novel is finished to share it and good reason to put watermarks or signatures on your art. However, many of the issues that artists face, such as theft, abuse of power and general criticism of their work are due to the inherently competitive nature of our society. We all have goals that we wish to reach, but many of us think that we have to go at it alone or brush others aside in order to progress, and this could not be further from the truth. Art can be a very personal thing, but there is no discrediting what you can create when you work with others.
Dr. Eve Ewing, a Chicago-based writer and academic, tweeted on August 25 that “everything good that [has] ever happened to [her] as a writer and scholar has in some way been tied to [her] choice to build horizontally […]”. We should embrace this horizontal building.
everything good that’s ever happened to me as a writer and scholar has in some way been tied to my choice to build horizontally— to not just try to follow the people above me, but to commit myself to the people around me, to see and celebrate their talents and learn from them.
— wikipedia brown aka eve ewing aka lil muji pen (@eveewing) August 25, 2018
Many of us have and will continue to benefit from the lessons we have learned from the artists around us. We learn by observing, doing and changing our techniques to better suit our goals. Operating under strict hierarchies does not help people who are trying to improve their craft, and just focusing on ways to accelerate to the top only harms us. I would not have improved my darkroom photography skills without advice from my teacher and classmates. No one can improve as a writer without reading or peer editing. Musicians need to be in tune with the rest of the symphony. Actors need to know who speaks before them, where they stand in relation to the rest of the cast. All forms of art depend on collaboration.
So, on September 10, and every day after that, we should embrace collaboration. More artists creating together means more stories being told, different perspectives coming to light and a greater chance of touching someone’s heart.
Photo by JTMultimedia via Pexels