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Why Comparison Kills Creativity

Comparison - why does it kill creativity?

It seems that for many of us the act of comparison stays with us for many years, if not our whole lives. It is something we seem to have imbibed along with our mother’s milk, from being entered in baby shows to graduating from university.

Are comparison and competition the same thing do you think?

Often a competitive spirit arises from comparison and vice versa. One seems to breed the other.

For example if I enter an art competition, and I fail to make the hanging list, I may go and see said exhibition later and compare my work to those that got hung. From that comparison I may become either, dispirited, disillusioned or angry particularly if I feel that my work was better than many of those that were selected. On the other hand I may become more determined to make next years selection.

A common scenario where people fall into the comparison trap, is found among beginning students. They look at their initial efforts and compare them to the student next to them who has been coming for a long time and feel inadequate and discouraged.

Women in a workshop
Comparing your results in workshops is a no no. Focus on you and your efforts.

Adults are particularly prone to this and may even give up early on because they don’t feel they have the pre-requisite talent to succeed.

Children, I find, are generally much more resilient in this respect.

So what is the answer to this problem?

Of course the best strategy, but one that is seldom followed, is to simply not compare anything you do with what others have done. Sometimes that also holds true to comparing your current work with what you have done previously, especially if you are having a bad day!

What can be a more productive way to use comparison so it doesn’t kill your creativity, is to take an honest look at what you are DOING, compared to what YOU are trying to achieve. But even that is not where you want to begin. Before you put brush to canvas, pencil to paper or clay on the wheel, look at what your intention is and set a goal for your self that is measurable. So in other words if it is a sketch you are doing, you might set a goal of learning to press more lightly, for this sketch, if you are heavy handed.

Then repeat the sketch with a different goal such as controlling your edges - are they light, heavy, straight, wavy, continuous or intermittent. How do you want them to be.

Landscape sketches
My intention for these sketches was to get down ideas and simplify them with a view to possibly later painting them.

After you finish each sketch, analyse whether you achieved that goal, rather than looking at it and condemning it because it doesn’t look enough like the object you were drawing.

This way you break your process down into manageable pieces and allow yourself to progress incrementally. You can do this with every aspect of your creative journey.

So what will you do today? What ONE thing will you focus on that you know needs work. You can now make comparison work for you as you watch yourself improve bit by bit!

NEXT WEEK: Anxiety-do you have it and what to do about it?

Image credit:Top Image by Hebi B. from Pixabay

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