Comparison: The Death of Creativity

Something I have been ruminating on lately, especially now that we are in a new year and I am coming up with new goals and new ideas, is comparison.  Comparison is an easy trap to fall into in life—she’s much more successful in her career than me, he’s much more motivated than me, I haven’t even thought about buying a house yet and they bought one straight out of college, they’re using their degree and I’m not—there’s a million different things that I think everyone is constantly comparing themselves to, even if subconsciously.

What I’ve been thinking about lately, though, is comparison with writing.  I am constantly falling into the trap of comparison when it comes to both my actual writing, and my writing life.  It’s hard not to feel discouraged when you see authors being published left and right and all you are getting is rejection, and when you hear about some of your writing friends who are halfway through a new novel and you are struggling to get through the first few chapters of your own idea.  Writing is hard, and comparison makes it even harder.

As with comparison in all facets of life, though, I am coming to learn that it’s the complete opposite of helpful.  Unhelpful isn’t even a strong enough word for how unhelpful it is (but hopefully you get the picture). 

Comparison can steal your joy—joy about where you are in your career right now (maybe it’s not so bad if you’re not focusing on where everyone else is), joy about your little apartment that isn’t a house, but is all yours, and joy about the writing progress you are making, even if it is slow going.

Most importantly, comparison can slowly kill off your own creative energy.  We all only have twenty-four hours in a day, so try figuring out how you can divvy up yours to include more time for writing, or reflection, or whatever it is that might help you move forward.  If you are spending too much time contemplating what you don’t have and others do, you are not going to have time to accomplish your own goals.

Constantly comparing yourself to other writers and other creatives is undoubtedly helpful.  It’s why we study the craft of writing in classes and celebrate literary giants who write so eloquently their words make you want to cry, but there’s also something to be said for what you have that they don’t.

It’s okay to be a little different.  It’s okay to search for years and years for somewhere to publish your favorite story and not be accepted by the more mainstream publishers.  It’s okay to never publish and just write for yourself—for the joy of writing. It’s okay to do your thing and find your niche and it won’t (and shouldn’t) look like anyone else’s, so stop comparing!

This is something I am constantly trying to remember myself, and it’s not easy, but its so important!  Don’t let yourself give up, and I won’t either. We are in this together and can’t compare our own journey’s.  Don’t kill your own chances at success—whatever that may look like for you.