The other day I happened to overhear a conversation between two people who are not in our writing group, but who are also involved in making cultural products. They spent probably 90% of the conversation in status maneuvers* that involved saying how terrible the market for their work was, how hard it was for them to produce, how badly their current project was going.
I often overhear conversations like this, and they drag me down. It’s like being in a room full of cigarette smoke. Do you remember when people used to smoke inside restaurants? It may have been annoying, but it was normal. But now that I almost never experience cigarette smoke, even if I’m standing outside and somebody starts to smoke, I immediately try to get away.
At our group people sometimes talk about having a hard time on their projects, but always in the context of how they are trying to advance, or as part of asking for help or encouraging others. I never hear people trying to raise their status by saying how much they are struggling or by insulting their own work.
When I overheard that smoky conversation, I realized yet again how very lucky I am to be part of a group that creates a place of fresh air.
* Footnote: You must read Impro by Keith Johnstone (to understand his concept of status, and because it will change the way you write and live). Call your local bookstore and order it right now.