Is Comparison Killing Your Creativity?

Is Comparison Killing Your Creativity?

How do you feel when someone says, “I wrote 5000 words today” when all you managed was 500 or 50 or only 5?

What is your response when you see someone produce a new story every week and you struggle to write a new story once a month, or even once a year?

Do you feel discouraged when you see someone produce new art works when you’re still stuck on your first?

Do you want to give up when you can’t practice your instrument as often as you like and you see your skills slipping behind in comparison to another player?

I’ve seen people excel in word counts, submissions, practice routines and regimes, art works. I’ve compared myself to others in what I haven’t done. I have flagellated myself with,

“What if…?”

“Why haven’t you…?”

“If you’d only…”

With the beginning of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) I am seeing writers post their spectacular word counts over the early days: two or three thousand words, up to five thousand words in a few sittings.

I am not participating in NaNoWriMo. Instead, I am working on a novella. Because I am a teacher, time is precious, so I have committed to writing a minimum of 100 words, five days a week. Since the start of Term 4 I have managed 3,500 words.

In comparison, my word count is paltry, pitiful, execrable, measly and *feel free to insert your own choice words here*

Comparison will kill your creativity.

It will stifle your ambition and plans until your dreams and visions are merely dried out husks, rotting in the back of the fridge like forgotten leftovers.

When you compare yourself with others, you kill any opportunity of developing your creativity. Comparison against others is measuring yourself against another person’s set of values, attitudes, structures, plans, visions. They are not your values, attitudes, structures, plans, visions.

If I compare myself to what others are achieving in NaNoWriMo, I will feel less than the scrapings from the bottom of student’s school bag. I will not compare myself with others and regret what I haven’t done but celebrate what I have achieved.

You have your own race to run. You have your own values, attitudes, structures, plans and visions to fulfil.

You can use others as inspiration, just not as a comparison.

 

How do you avoid the demoralising impact of comparing yourself with others and maintain creative integrity?

Creativity is about:

Connection

Conversation

Community 

Connection brings you into contact with other like-minded people. Finding a shared connection in creative pursuits leads to conversation.

Conversation is the opportunity to discuss ideas, habits, routines, progress. We engage with one another in conversation, to share our individual journeys and encourage one another to continue. We celebrate the victories with each other, encourage those who have fallen behind by attending to their blistered heels and untied shoelaces. By doing so, we develop community.

Community is about serving one another in love, developing and building each others’ creative skills. Community builds character not comparison. Community builds creativity because it empowers the individual to fulfil their plans and visions and dreams.

Comparison creates a sense of inferiority causing you to change your view of your goals and visions. It drains you of your creative vitality. You see other’s creative triumphs and victories but not your own. Ultimately, you lose your creative vision.

 Instead, find a connection with creative people. Engage in conversation with them and develop a community.

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6 responses to “Is Comparison Killing Your Creativity?

  1. I tend to agree. I essentially read those word counts as a the individual giving themselves a pep talk or holding themselves to motivating target, its not about me and its out of my control anyway.

  2. Very encourages to see community listed instead of retreat as a solution to the problem

  3. I find it really easy to compare myself and go “Oh but they’ve written 2000 words today and I was lucky if I remembered to eat”, but then we forget that people only broadcast the successes, not the hours spent staring at the screen before those 2000 words came along. If I find I can’t manage any words on that given day, I go and knit, or read, and do something so far removed from writing that I don’t stress about my word count. It’s amazing what pops into my head when I’m not thinking about it, so I can go back to my writing feeling refreshed, and ready to go.

    • Very true. People don’t often comment on the struggle to produce words. I find washing up (sudspiration) is where I often process ideas and scenes.

  4. Pingback: Eat Your Heroes | A Fullness in Brevity - Adam Byatt

  5. I went though this as part of my creative meltdown in 2011. I wasn’t able to produce because I was busy producing the work of others. I felt a sense of failure creeping in. As the people I was working with went on to publish stories, get book deals and their careers started to take off, I was caught in comparison mode where I was ALWAYS going to come up short.

    I didn’t help that while I was badly depressed I won an award recognising me as an emerging voice in the artistic scene. I felt like a bloody fraud. I felt like it was too much, too soon, on too little. And it made me feel worse.

    As part of my professional development in 2012 I wrote about it it:

    http://wa.emergent-publishing.com/2012/03/shall-i-compare-thee/

    and the comments that came in blew my mind. I went on to write this http://jodicleghorn.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/the-perils-of-comparison-and-the-posse-of-imposters-answered/

    The upshot of it was I needed to be accountable to myself, my goals and where I wanted my career to go and focus on that and that alone. I could only compare myself against what *I* had done. What *I* had achieved. That was the only sensible and empathetic measure. Out of it I came up with a few simple mantras:

    * “write dangerously” and often
    * give the best part of the day to writing
    * write with others
    * rinse and repeat

    In 2012, sticking to what I wanted to achieve (to fall in love with writing again) and making myself accountable and comparable only to myself, I had the most successful year on record. I wrote. I wrote on projects I loved. I wrote with awesome people (such as yourself). I wrote things that were so far out of my comfort zone it was not believable. I wrote and got things published.

    More than anything – I learnt so much about myself, my writing and my motivation.

    Now as I hammer through my next huge goal – to write an entire novel in November – I feel bad about posting stupidly large word counts. I don’t want anyone to compare and feel they come up short. The counter to posting the word counts is to always provide encouraging comments on everyone else’s posts – especially when they feel as though they are don’t doing well. 100 words written in a day is 100 words that did not exist prior to that.

    I understand my process (I am a binger and this is faciliated by the fact I have the ability to write fast under conducive circumstances). And I’m okay with that. The irony of wanting to pump out 75K in a month is that the original 7K short story took almost six months to write.

    Learning to be authentic to yourself and what you want to achieve is hard, but once you know it, the rest of what used to count as fodder comparison just becomes background noise. And those who understand you and who love and champion your writing, will always be there to love and champion your writing.

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