Art & Egos

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I’m a poet. I’ve been performing my poetry at events and open mics consistently for almost a year. What many may find interesting is that, while I love to write, I hate getting up in front of people and performing. It’s just one of those things. Someone (accurately) described me as an artistic introvert. The reason is because I never went into poetry with the intent to perform. I write because it’s my form of therapy–it’s the way I release my emotions. So to get in front of a crowd of strangers and expose my innermost thoughts and feelings is pretty intimidating. Correction, it’s downright scary.

There are other artists who love the spotlight. It’s nothing for them to get on the mic and put on a show. They’re expressive and theatrical, charismatic and engaging. They have that stage presence. However, the content of their poetry is lackluster. Yet that fact is brushed under the rug because they can engage the audience and, as a result, we get a lot of untalented spoken word artists with very big egos.

Poetry  is a very ego driven form of artistic expression. I’ve learned that there are two types of poets; those who  write as an outlet and those who write to perform in front of an audience. The former tend to write from experience, producing poetry that has substance. The later tend to write to entertain, producing poetry that…well…entertains but lacks substance. Interestingly enough it’s the entertaining poets who tend to be the most popular on the scene. Regardless of whether their work is good or not.

I don’t deal well with other people’s egos. I’ve spent quite a bit of time working on checking my own so I have very little patience for that heavy energy. The thing with these types is that their ego makes them prone to competing with other artists–making poetry sets a contest on whose the best. I don’t like that type of artistic environment. It’s not supportive or encouraging. Artists don’t tend to grow in that atmosphere and all it does is make them just as competitive as their peers.  And there’s nothing wrong with being competitive but  the behavior is divisive .

I’ve watched all of this play out even within my poetry group. A battle of egos caused our group to be stagnant for months, only to result in a split with a few starting their own collective while the rest remained with the original group. Even though, in the beginning, we all came together for the same purpose at some point it started to be more about the ego and less about the art. I’ve since then noticed a level of competition coming from the other group. There’s an attitude that they need to prove that they are better than the group I am a part of or that they need to “one-up” us. I’ve refused to engage this. I understand that doing so would put energy into the wrong focus.

For a while I struggled with trying to balance gaining confidence in my art while at the same time remaining humble about it. I’ve learned that the trick to always remember why you do whatever it is that you do. As long as I never lose sight of my purpose then I will always be grounded in it. My art is not about my ego. It’s simply my way of connecting with others.

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