Don’t Let Comparison Kill Creativity

25 Oct

Words have power.

Certain declarations are like pins pricking the balloons of creativity that are meant to float up into the sky and show the world something beautiful.  Instead, they are left lifeless and deflated on the ground.

“They are so talented, I could never be as good as them.”

“I may as well smash my guitar after hearing that guy.”

“After reading that, I feel like giving up on writing.”

“That’s a tough act to follow.”

“There is nothing new under the sun. Everything has already been created.”

I have said those things and more often I have thought those things. It’s impossible not to at times, especially in a culture where everything is a competition. We make art a contest.

I mean, isn’t it? After all, this is a dog-eat-dog world. There is not enough spotlight for everyone, only the best rise to the top, right?

I wrote a blog a few weeks ago asking the question,  Does Good Art Deserve Recognition? It was amazing to hear the feedback I got from writers, singers, musicians, etc. Most people want to live a child-like and care free existence where they are creating out of joy, but along the way life catches up with us and we began to feel chewed up and spit out by the system, we begin to compare ourselves with others and feel deflated. Our dreams become grounded.

We don’t need to stay there.

I say, it’s time to stop making art a competition. Everyone is unique, we all have something different and beautiful to give the world. We know this as four-year-olds, we learn it from Barney and Sesame Street, but somewhere before we hit middle school we stop believing it.

But we can go back there, tap into that pure flow, in the place that exists before the pressures to perform took over.

What we have is a unique expression of what it means to be a human being. We don’t have to hoard it or be ashamed of it.

There is enough beauty and color, enough pain and suffering, enough story in the world to reflect it in six billion different ways.

Is there a place for critique? Definitely, we all have a lot to learn. But if you pick something apart in the middle of it being born, it loses the spontaneous life in it.  Is there a place learn from others who may have years more experience at their craft, or a different perspective? For sure, diversity is a wonderful thing. But we can’t expect to be them. And we shouldn’t need to. The world doesn’t need another them.

So let’s stop using our words to negatively assess and compare our gifts with others.

Let’s stop judging and start living.

I recently read some of the best advice from Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet. He is speaking of poetry, but it applies to anything creative.

“You have asked if your verses are good. You ask me. You ask others. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are disturbed when editors reject your efforts. Now, I beg you to give up in all that. You are looking outward, and that above all, you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody.

There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you to write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart. Acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all– ask yourself in the stillest hours of the night: must I write? Delve into yourself deep for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple ‘I must,’ Then build your life according to this necessity; your life even in its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.”

“Believe that you can change the world. Your dreams have been living in a code of silence. Find your voice. Make a noise.”-Katie Herzig

4 Responses to “Don’t Let Comparison Kill Creativity”

  1. georgefloreswrite October 25, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    Believe it or not, but I really needed to read this today! thank you! Very wise words…

  2. Jeff Goins October 26, 2011 at 9:37 am #

    Amen and amen! No one will ever create what you can create. Not in the way that you do it. Art is not about becoming the best in the world; it’s about becoming the best you can be. Because no one else can do that. As much as this sounds like Kindergarten it’s true. (Sidenote: love Katie’s music.)

  3. Ricardo Bueno October 26, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    You know, the moment I stopped caring about what the competition was doing, the more I started to grow. Too often, we just wind up getting in our own way. Jeff said it best above…I agree with that 100%.

  4. bardessdmdenton October 31, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    My apologies for taking a few days to get to this! Thank you for writing it! It is sad that often personal creativity falls into the black hole of public opinion and fickleness…at least as it believes what a few money hungry ‘moguls’ tell it.

    I think one of the most important points you make is: ‘But if you pick something apart in the middle of it being born, it loses the spontaneous life in it.’

    In the midst of creating something there should only be a focus on its creation. I love the Rainer Maria Rilke quote!

    One thing sharing some of my creative endeavors through blogging has given me, is the connection with others who are doing their art, writing, whatever, and finding that comparison isn’t relevant but inspiring and encouraging each other is!

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