Comparison Is A Thief Of Creativity

I’ve had a wonderful, positive response to my previous blog post “A Different Take On Creativity” – it has been shared across the world via social media, which I am thrilled about. So I want to continue with this theme.

Following on from my previous post, it seems to me that when some people say they don’t think they’re creative, what they are actually doing is comparing their creative ability to someone else’s creativity. And I used to do this too, and I must admit that sometimes I still fall into this trap.

I believe it’s one of the major blocks to expressing your naturally creative self.

Art or a Mess?

creative? or a mess? or part of the process?

For example, you want to write and publish a book, and then you start comparing yourself to authors who are already published and seem to be enjoying success. You look at the few paragraphs you’ve already written and think it stinks. Enter judgment and comparison.

Another example is comparing your drawings and sketches to “established” artists’ drawings and sketches. Again, you believe what you’ve done is not good enough and you judge yourself for not being creative in the slightest. Or that your drawings look like a six-year-old’s.

Do these examples look and feel familiar?

What is often not seen or realised is that someone’s overnight success has rarely happened overnight!

What you don’t get to see and what isn’t often shared, are the amount of “shitty first sketches” or “shitty first drafts” that go into the creative process and the journey of a finished piece. What you don’t see is how many edits a book has gone through – and most of the time it’s an editor who has tidied up an author’s piece of writing.

You should see some of my attempts in my sketchbook! Absolutely dreadful. BUT that is also a judgment. And these days I laugh at them instead. It’s like when you plant a seed to grow a flower, you need to dig up the dirt first. The creative process is much like that for me. I dig up the dirt first, plant the seed and I nurture its growth and blossoming.

When you judge your output too soon, you shoot yourself in the foot. You might be judging your starting point to someone else’s end point. That is not a fair comparison.

The key is to allow the flow of making a mark, or writing without restrictions, first – aka the shitty first draft or sketch – and then once everything is down and everything has been said and put onto paper or canvas, then you can step back and look at it with a discerning eye.

Be honest, but not belittling. Don’t just look at what is ‘wrong’ or what needs improvement – also look at what works and looks good. Then you can make changes or tweaks. Then you might look at other people’s work to see how they’ve done it and practice implementing their techniques. Or make up your own.

Be balanced in your approach. That way you keep being inspired and motivated – well, at least, that works for me!

If I am overly criticised (especially if I do it to myself – and I am talking about the kind of criticism that is not constructive or truthful) then I actually find I stop being creative and I want to run away, give up and never do it again. Your creative self is an inner child, and so it’s imperative to treat that inner child kindly, gently and truthfully. She can handle criticism that comes from a place of honesty, but not from a place of plain spitefulness, cruelty or jealousy.

Greeting cards - robin, butterfly, owl

by no means did i create these in one sitting!

If you want someone else to look at your work, then make sure they go over it in the same way; i.e. gently and truthfully. Be careful who you share your work with, especially if something hasn’t been finished yet. Treat it like the precious object that it is. Treat yourself that way, too.

If you still continue to think you’re not creative then there is something you can do about that – a very simple thing – enroll on a course to learn and develop your technique(s)!

Easy, right? If it was, then more of us would be doing this. Sometimes as we’ve judged and compared ourselves so often we have actually built a block or barrier in our mind, we’ve created a story about ourselves that we’re not creative, and it’s then a challenge to change that. It might not happen at the click of a finger.

But know that it can change – and I am living proof of that.

What the ego forgets (because the ego is always judging, the critical part who wants to keep you safe and away from rejection, ridicule etc; i.e. the survival instinct) is that creativity is a process, it’s a journey, a quest, an adventure. And you grow into the “role” – you become that person who is a successful author or artist. You just have to go through the experience and as with any quest or adventure there will be obstacles, or, as I like to look at them, ‘opportunities for growth’. But the ego doesn’t like that! The ego wants it to be easy and will often opt for an easy way out. Its favourite choice being doing absolutely nothing.

There is a well-known quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that I am reminded of as I write this post: “Comparison is the thief of joy”. I would say, therefore, that comparison is a thief of creativity, too.

If you really want to compare yourself, compare where you are now to where you have been. But please don’t make it a beating-yourself-up-for-not-being-good-enough-or-creative-enough exercise. Use it as a stepping stone, a jumping off point, to be willing and committed to becoming who you want to be, and who you really are inside. Celebrate every little bit of progress you make, no matter how small.

Remember to nurture your creative self like you would nurture a delicate rose.

Does this post resonate with you? What small thing can you do today that will take you a step closer to believing you are already creative?


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