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  • I'm not in competition with anybody but myself.
    My goal is to beat my last performance.

    Celine Dion

    A friend for whom I have a great deal of respect recently wrote to me and said:

    “Writing should not be about competition.”

    And then he added:

    “Wouldn’t the scorekeeping be a lot less obnoxious if it weren’t made public? What about keeping the scoreboard password-protected and available only to the persons interested in THEIR OWN scores?

    Then we’d have no more of this looking askance at ‘how well one is doing’ compared to the rest. No more of this joining every ‘audience’ in sight with an eye to enhancing one’s own batting average. No more of the ‘some are more equal than others.’ “


    This is one of the best suggestions I have seen so far, and would, I believe, be welcomed by many who currently may feel oppressed by the public ratings.

    And that got me thinking.

    What if, here on Cowbird, there were no “Loves”? Would you still write?

    What if there was no “Largest Audience” to aspire to? Would you still seek out Members with the goal of building your audience? Why is that important to you?

    Why not just let those who are attracted to your work join on their own initiative? Just a thought.

    What if there was only the “Cowbird Story of the Day”? Would you still write?

    Social networks have set up some strange metrics for popularity, and it seems to me that they are largely meaningless, misleading and counter-productive to serious thinking and quality work.

    What difference, really, does it make, if you have 5000 FB “Friends” few of whom you know?

    What difference does it make if someone “Likes” something you have posted? By what standard?

    These networks have gotten a lot of people into bad habits with their ranking systems, and I fear that some of that competitiveness creeps in here to our Cowbird Community.

    So, for those of you who are interested in doing the best writing and art you can do, let me put out a challenge:

    Why not just DELETE the competitive aspect of your time here? Do you really think that obsessive - compulsive audience-building and promiscuous ‘loving’ has anything to do with anything? Am I being too blunt here?

    I think this whole matter of competition is, for Cowbird, the “Elephant in the Room,” the subject which many of us are unhappy about, but which has not been fully aired except in private discussions.

    May we talk?

    This is a forum for serious writers and artists. (By serious writing I don't mean that your grammar or spelling have to be impeccable or that your style must be polished to a high gloss, only that your voice be true.)

    It is not a forum for gathering tokens of popularity which have nothing to do with quality work, telling of truth, and the joys of creativity.

    “Popularity,” “Audience,” and “Loves” should be the very last thing on our minds here.

    Immanuel Kant wrote:

    Seek not the favor of the multitude; it is seldom got by honest and lawful means. But seek the testimony of few; and number not voices, but weigh them.”

    What if all the time spent in the pursuit of more loves, more audience, more visibility was spent in communion with one’s Muse, always looking for ways to become better communicators and develop our unique God given gifts as Writers and Storytellers?

    This is not a ham and chicken church supper here, after all.

    We are here to encourage and celebrate good Stories, and produce the best Stories we can.

    Is it too outrageous to suggest that all of us put in thoughtful time in learning as much as we can about our craft, and reading writers of timeless excellence as part of the curriculum?

    LOVE matters. “LOVES” do not.

    Love fine writing. Love the act of writing. Love excellence, quality, and passion in writing. But forget about popularity, please. It is only inserting an element which does not belong here.

    To paraphrase Laurie Anderson: “Popularity is a virus.”

    What if we spent more time in doing research to make our Stories genuinely informative and interesting, instead of just putting down the first thing that comes into our minds and calling that a Story?

    Or, at least looking for the very BEST words to add a nuance of meaning, a shade of mood, a glitter of unexpected magic?

    I realize that some people here do not like to edit, but in the world of publishing and serious journalism, that just will not fly.

    Welcome to reality, folks.

    Twitter and Facebook are destroying the concept of craft. Please let us not fall into the trap of thinking that anything we write cannot ALWAYS be made at least ten times better if we love it enough to spend some time on it.

    Editing is simply the tool for creating work worth someone else’s time, which is a gift and should be honored.

    Mark Twain once said that the difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between “lightning” and “lightning bug.”

    Can we aspire to more lightning, and fewer lightning bugs?

    Cowbird is evolving under the leadership of extremely talented, caring and thoughtful souls, who want to create a phenomenal venue for real storytelling, creating and sharing.

    It is an open system, a free for all, and anyone can do what they pretty damn well please as long as it does not, to borrow a Victorian phrase, “Scare the horses.”

    But really, if you are new, or if you have been here awhile, think about who you are as a writer, thinker, artist, creator, storyteller and communicator, and see if this popularity thing that holds some in its death grip has anything to do with risking, experimenting, growing, trying new things which may not be “popular” and which people may not “love,” but which you need to write or create because you are first and foremost an Artist?

    We can get trapped into a vicious cycle with all this, and several brave souls have spoken out about it. Some of you are clearly unhappy with what goes on - you want a cleaner, fairer playing field. Others of you are just plain mad.

    I know that there is a clear intention that Cowbird not become just another Facebook or Twitter, but unless there is a core of Storytellers committed to quality, the smog of the “popularity demons” will continue to pollute our atmosphere in unfortunate ways and produce, even as it is producing now, unintended consequences. And, unfortunately, some absolutely boring and dreadful posts.

    Writing and art are lonely paths to walk on and commit to, and not for the faint hearted.

    It is in the lonely communion with one’s Muse that Real Work is done. We must never forget this.

    Chasing the “Love” bug, and “Audience” is, I believe, a way to delude oneself that one is engaged in the community, when GOOD WRITING is the way to be engaged in the community.

    Loves and Audience have absolutely nothing to do with Quality, and in the world of adults, sometimes it takes years to get recognition for one’s work. That is just the way it is.

    Deal with it.

    If Cowbird is truly visioned as being “Anti-Facebook,” as has been stated, it would seem that the sooner any publicly visible Facebook look-alike ratings can be incinerated, the better, so we can get on with being a supportive community of artists and writers, telling our stories without worrying about how “popular” we are going to be.

    I think elimination of these faux-metrics will do much to boost the integrity and quality of work presented here, and in the long run, serve a higher purpose for all of us.

    What I believe is needed right now are some wise, practical, and constructive suggestions for a structure which serves our essential goal of quality Storytelling, and does not create more social media turkey feathers of competition, with all that competition entails.

    Agree? Disagree? Got better ideas? Please shout and sprout.

    (Digital Art by Alex)
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