Being a part of a “scene” can be useful for a creator. You have peers you can look to for support, inspiration, or even friendly competition.
But the scene can also hold you back. What was once support may turn into false praise. What was once inspiration may turn into basking in reflected glory. What was once friendly competition may turn into competition that puts a ceiling on your potential.
The scene becomes a source of the Pressfieldian resistance. It becomes a source of distraction, of protection for the ego.
Here are some signs that your scene is dysfunctional:
- In-group drama: In a dysfunctional scene, petty things turn into scandals. It might be a romance gone wrong, it might be a romance that’s just fine, or it might be one scene member choosing another scene member—over the others—for a collaboration. It’s easier to worry about what someone in the scene is doing than to face the work of getting better at your craft.
- Two-faced behavior: People in the scene will shower praise on one or more fragile egos within the scene. In private, those doing the showering will admit they don’t think the work is very good. For the sake of being “nice”, the whole scene suffers. If members of the scene can’t get honest feedback, they can’t improve.
- Deifying the accomplished: Every dysfunctional scene deifies those who are a rung or two above them on the ladder. They’ll say “I can’t believe I was in the same room as so and so.” So and so ceases to be a human being. This is limiting to members of the scene, because, in their minds, they themselves are mere mortals.
If you want to see dysfunctional scenes in action, watch any movie by Christopher Guest: Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman in particular. Or, watch the SNL skit featuring a spoof show called Chicago Improv. Mike Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice is another example of a dysfunctional scene.
If you want to make it as a creator, you aren’t going to make it on your own. You do need support, inspiration, and friendly competition. But the very place you get those things can also blind you from reality—and you need to see reality clearly if you’re going to get anywhere.
How have you seen scenes holding creators back?
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