“Who gets to be a revolutionary?”
Writer Dayna Evans asks this partway through her Eater article “The Women Erased From the Story of No-Knead Bread”. It’s a good question. Who gets top billing for a semi-simultaneous invention or a collective idea?
It reminds me of discovering Louise Brigham’s box furniture while doing some research on Gerrit Rietveld’s crate furniture.
Some of it has to be luck. And of course much of it comes down to privilege, some aspect of the hero’s circumstances that makes them more visible or attractive, a broader chest to pin the badge on. But a lot of it, at least at this point in history, is definitely the result of “a squeaky wheel gets the grease”. The person who shouts the loudest or most convincingly gets the kudos.
The internet amplifies absolutely all of this. Social media echo chambers and search algorithms help the shouters float to the top. But it can also allow the quieter voices to be heard. I would have been hard-pressed to discover Louise Brigham without Google search, or the bakers Suzanne Dunaway and Doris Grant without Twitter.
Not sure where I’m going with this.
I guess maybe these are my takeaways for the moment, the things I try (and often fail) to remind myself.
When you’re feeling rough about your own life—particularly if you get this feeling after comparing yourself or your work to someone else’s and thinking, “How are they so good? How do they do it?”—try to remember that they don’t exist in a vacuum. No one does. No one is a lone hero, no matter how hard they or the world at large might try to push that fiction. We’re all collections of our past influences and experiences, and they change us every day. It’s ok to shout and advocate for yourself when you feel moved to do so, but it’s also ok to contribute gently if that feels more your wavelength.
Some of the best advice I ever got was from my high school English teacher. Identify the people that help you be a better person, to do good work regardless of what that work is, and keep them close. Try not to worry about the others.