Okay a friend of mine was stating how he felt that in order for a poet to get better, then you kinda have to compete in some sort of matter. We both compete in poetry slams. This conversations came about as we were comparing different poetry scenes and how this one scene is somewhat the same and not as diverse in their writing because they don't compete. I don't really agree with their viewpoint even though I competed in poetry slams as well. How do you improve your poetry if you don't compete in any some sort of way?
Random thoughts. Is competing important? Can you be content competing with just yourself or can you only be motivated by trying to convince yourself you're better than others?
I think it's less about "competing" and more about comparing your work with the work of other writers you admire, friends or other authors, and learning to bring what you appreciate into your own works when you can. If you read someone who embraces a lot of wordplay and you find it refreshing, try to incorporate some word play in your next few poems. If you read someone and you find yourself admiring their ability to be succinct, try trimming some fat off your next poem. So on and so forth.
Some of the best visual artists I've seen experiment with many styles. I've seen painters who are also good at sketching, sculptures who are great at painting, on and on. Writing is the same.
If slam poetry is your thing, let slam poetry be your thing. Don't be afraid to explore though. Write 30 haikus in 30 days. Learn to write a persuasive essay. Write a surrealist prose poem. Write a short story about a childhood memory. Do them often. Figure out what makes each easy. Figure out what makes each one difficult. Figure out what makes each one special. Bring what you figure back to your slam poems. See how they grow.
Give up spoken word poetry for a year.
Try new things.
Write a poem when your completely exhausted, in the dark of your basement with no sound and low light. Tuck it away in a drawer and ignore it for two weeks. Wake up early one Sunday morning, make a cup of coffee, sit out back and listen to the birds and rewrite the same poem from scratch. Tuck it away in a drawer and forget about it for two weeks. Pull both out. Compare them. What do you like about each? What do you dislike?
Make five copies of a poem. Give them to five different people and have them read it to you out loud. How does each one sound different? Do they focus on and enunciate different words? Do they have a different rythym than what you had when your first wrote it? Do you like what you hear? Do you dislike it? Why?
Embrace your poetry. It's a part of you. Who you are.
Throw your ego away. They're just words on paper.