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The Role of Competitions in the Creative Industries

An ongoing writing competition Hadithi Za Gibebe.

An ongoing writing competition Hadithi Za Gibebe.

One of the toughest things faced by a creative is to get discovered. With regards to creative industries, in my view, talent is only half of the equation. The other half lies in one’s modus operandi. You know, the ‘How’ to achieve the end result.

The creative industries are flooded with talent and sometimes it gets difficult to get noticed. For some they get discovered almost instantly and for some it takes years. It is true that every dog has his day but it does not mean that one should not capitalize on the opportunities that present themselves.

Have you ever noticed how competitions have helped boost some of the most notable of public figures here in Kenya alone? Think Edith Kimani, Linda Nyangweso, Sanaipei Tande, the list is endless. If I was to proceed and give a list of international personalities, I would probably spend half my day compiling the list.

Competitions offer a free platform for a creative to showcase their work; to show the rest of the world that they are worth their salt.  Some people tend to shy away from competitions and I do not blame such skeptical approaches. There are instances where people use competition platforms to steal from an unsuspecting audience. However, it is important for a creative to do their homework. Do some research, find out what the competition hopes to achieve. What happens to your creations on submission. The reputation of the organizers and so on and so forth. Then proceed to enter the competition if you are satisfied.

There are times where some creatives are blurred by shortsightedness and refrain from competitions because of terms and conditions like the intellectual property will belong to the company among other possibly unwelcoming clauses. Here is the thing though, cleverness entails the ability to weigh and project the long term effect such an opportunity it can have in your career. I call it the gift of foresight. You are a creative. You are likely to draw more inspiration to do more paintings that what you did for your submission, or a write more stories, poetry or a songs. If you are in the business of creating, you are highly unlikely to get stuck after one experience that did not go as you anticipated.

If a competition gives you a platform to an audience that you did not have access to or probably would never have access to, grab it and run with it. Some of us are beneficiaries of such competitions and what you do thereafter is up to you. Winning isn’t everything you know, you could make a submission and it opens doors to the unimaginable. Think of competitions as a possible business model you can adapt as a creative. A competition could lead to your works being featured in an anthology and without spending a dime, you are a published writer, or your painting or photograph showcased in an art gallery or exhibition. Some of these competitions may not be explicit in the goals but you must do your research to know and weigh your options. And whatever the end result, be armed with legal counsel to guide the process.

You know the slogan, “You win some, you lose some”. At the end of the day, it is better to try than not to try at all and have the ‘what if’ linger in your mind.

Next time you see a competition and it speaks to your abilities, give it a chance and try your luck. Hadithi za Gibebe is currently accepting stories. Tell your story if you love to write, you never know.

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