Written by Rachel Beck
Norman Triplett looked down at his clock and noted the time as the cyclists rushed passed. It was 1898 and he was in the midst of pioneering the field of sports psychology. Triplett was himself an avid bicycle enthusiast, and he discovered that competitive cyclists, while racing alone, averaged 2 minutes and 29 seconds per mile, whereas when they raced with others, their average time dropped to 1 minute and 53 seconds. He called this effect “social facilitation.”
Social facilitation isn’t just a quirk of human nature; it’s one of two big reasons why you should share your art, writing, film, stories, and so forth with others, even if you aren’t very good yet. We’ve been talking a lot about the ins and outs of collaboration in recent weeks, as well as tactics you can use to network with others. There’s another factor at work here that we’ve alluded to, but haven’t really explained directly. Letting others see your work will make you a better storyteller.
For some of us, this works because we’re competitive and it drives us to try to outdo others in our field. We want to be, in the tradition of Pokémon, “the very best, like no one ever was.” J.K. Rowling, Stan Lee, Peter Jackson and the entire team over at Valve better watch out; we’re going to outdo them all simultaneously, after which we’ll retire to a castle in the sky that we built in our free time. In essence, the act of showing someone else our work makes us pedal faster.
For others, we’re in it for the community. Even if we’re just showing someone else our work, we still reap the benefits of collaboration such as inspiration and mutual motivation. Much in the manner of the Inklings, sharing our stories with other people also energizes us to improve and create further (especially when said people enjoy our work!). An energized storyteller is a productive storyteller.
A word on behalf of introverts here. Many (not all) creative-types are also naturally introspective and often derive more energy from spending time alone then from being around others. Showing someone else your work might seem counter productive, because it’s an exertion of emotional energy, rather than an intake. Do it anyway, even though it “costs” more emotionally than your more people-loving counterparts. Two reasons: first, the more you do it, the more comfortable you will be talking about yourself, which is critical to networking.
The second is also the other big reason for all storytellers should share their creations: You have something unique to you to share with the world that only you can speak to. It’s part of the responsibility of being a storyteller. No one else can bring the story you dream to life, and therefore, by withholding those stories, you are effectively robbing the world of their chance at it. In the words of John Donne in his famous Meditation 17:
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.”
In the end, we share our flawed creations with other people because it is good for us. Our works don’t need to be finished and they don’t need to seismically rock another person’s world. We simply need show the world through our eyes, and see it through another’s.
“Pokemon Adventure!” illustration graciously provided by Fotis Sora. Discover more of his work on DeviantART.