“One tree is like another tree, but not too much. One tulip is like the next, but not altogether. More or less like people – a general outline, then stunning individual strokes…”
– Mary Oliver
I read this in a book of essays by Mary Oliver last evening and immediately had to put the book down and write my own response and thoughts before they were forgotten.
Yes, Mary! This is the eloquent answer to a question that is posed to me so often by people who feel crowded out in a crowded online space. The internet and more specifically blogs and social media offer an amazing place to share your work and to see the work of others. The tradeoff is we’re also more acutely aware of what everyone else is doing. So much so, that it leaves us feeling like we’re trying to push our way onto a stage that is already occupied by others who are captivating the full attention of the audience. We feel like we’re trying to squeeze into a space on a fully stocked supermarket shelf. There is a sense of scarcity.
So, we tuck away our ideas and dreams and keep them to ourselves, certain that no one will care.
Oh, but you are robbing others of the joys, intricacies and beautiful uniqueness of your stunning individual strokes. You are only focusing on all of the similar outlines; the seemingly identical silhouettes. You are not like all the others. Not altogether. Not too much. And there is room for you.
Rather than the world being like one stage that can only be occupied by a finite amount of talent at one time, it is more like a flea market with an audience that is composed of individuals whose interests and delights are every bit as unique as they are. One person might slow down at the booth that features old books with gilded pages and leather spines while another is captivated by hand tools wearing the warm patina that only time and contact with human hands can create.
We are not mass-produced products. We are not factory finished. And there is no true likeness to you and what you have to offer.
If you want to keep your work to yourself, keep it to yourself. If you want to occupy your time with other pursuits, do that.
But don’t let the question of space stifle any dreams you have of sharing your stunning individualism with the world.