the comparison game: why its toxic & why we have to stop playing


artists; we have a lot on our plates - on the daily. we're thinking about the next thing we're going to make while simultaneously working on the current thing, editing it, refining it, making it better. there's a good chance we're working a job to keep all this going - to fund our art and put sandwiches in our mouths while we do that. we're working on keeping our social media updated and nice looking. we're writing emails and planning events and answering messages and thinking of new marketing tactics.

we have a lot to think about; a lot is going on in our flippin brilliant brains.

honestly all of this, if not tended to in a self-loving way, can lead to big time burn out. feeling empty, hollow, and like you honestly have nothing left to give. like you're ready to throw in the towel but you're just getting started.it's a roller coaster - and a lot of us deal with this on the regular. so the last thing we need, on top of juggling everything else you're doing, is to be playing the comparison game.

what do I mean by that, the comparison game?

constantly holding your work up to someone else's; your writing, your songs, your paintings, photos, comics, graphic designs, etc - comparing them to someone else's to see how you measure up alongside them. and lets face it, we almost always come out on the bottom. and then we start our vicious cycles of beating ourselves up and nitpicking ourselves and ultimately losing something very important that we NEED in order to even make good art: joy. we lose the joy in our craft that we actually loved before... but now, suddenly, its sub-par. because, in our minds, its not as good as his or hers. [side note: most of the time this is a fallacy anyways... there's a good chance they look at your work and think the very same thing]

why do we do this? why do we torture ourselves?



well, first because we're artists, and we all know artists are mad to begin with. no, honestly i'm just joshing here because i don't know why exactly this is something i choose to torture, drain, and exhaust myself with on occasion. why do i have my eyes on other people's marks and not my own? i don't know. insecurities, feelings of inferiority, existential crisis's... maybe a little of each???

it's a rut. it's a rut we fall into as artists. and it's a tricky little bugger to climb out of. i'm still working on it myself, and i feel as if i have company in this place. i feel like maybe this isn't something only i wrestle with. maybe a lot of us do.

i can't tell you exactly how to get out of this whack-a-mole game of "i wish my thing was better" or "i wish my art was more like"... but i can and i will tell you what helps me sometimes... and that would be to learn to appreciate your own work.

make a list. write it out - eleven things you like about HOW YOU do what you do. how *you* uniquely execute your craft. because this is the very reason you shouldn't be comparing yourself to anyone; we all have a gift. we all have a unique voice, something new and fresh to bring to the table. your writing doesn't need to sound like anthony doerr. your photographs don't need to look like brandon woelfels. your writing should sound like yours. your photos should emulate your own vibe.

"but i'm just a noob. i want to develop my style so much more!!!!1"

and that is 200% fine. but you don't need to copy someone else in order to develop more yourself. instead, wander, explore - take a walk or meditate and see what things naturally come to your mind that inspire you. emulate those things - those are the things that light you up. you can't run off someone else's fuel; you have to find your own.

i just want to say that i speak from experience here. i spoke of a rut - well, i'm writing from the rut. i'm a perfectionist in many ways. i compare and nitpick and i play the game. but i am actively trying to stop playing it. and that's the first step.


ELEVEN THINGS I LIKE ABOUT HOW I DO MY ART:

1. i like that i don't have to think about what i write. it just happens.
2. i like that people have told me they can see my story in their head like a movie. 
3. i like the way i feel when i write. 
4. i like that i have created characters that i, and readers, have fallen in love with
5. i like that my writing has made my mom cry
6. i like the way i write about the places i travel to
7. i like the vibe of my photographs
8. i like the way i write kick-butt action scenes
9. and kiss scenes
10. i like that i have published a novel
11. i like my ability to think of titles



OKAY, NOW IT'S YOUR TURN. comment below and list 11 things that you personally LIKE about your art. or maybe your not an artist, but you still struggle with comparison... then just tell me 11 things you like about your flipping awesome self. :) 

s/o to keira for the conversation on twitter/insta that inspired this post & to olivia for the idea about making lists of things you like about you xx

ALSO, Keira has a new, beautiful blog - so go check that out if ya love me. :)




lOVE,
kATE



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18 people commented on this post.

  1. This is a wonderful post and its so true. We compare our work to others and aren't able to see the beauty we've created ourselves.

    1. I like that writing is just like breathing to me.
    2. I like that editing is actually something I can enjoy.
    3. I love that I can create characters that have emotion and depth.
    4. I love that plot bunnies come to me nearly every day. I'm never short of ideas.
    5. I like that I can get so caught up in my story, that time passes by without my realizing it. Of course, this is a blessing and a curse.
    6. I like that some scenes I write, I later come back to and realize just how great they are.
    7. I love how my novel began.
    8. I love that God has given me the gift and desire to write.
    9. I love that everything about me becoming a writer has fit into place, even earlier in my life.
    10. I love how life can inspire scenes and ideas.
    11. I like that even though I can't come up with names for the life of me, there's websites and resources that I can turn to. And then I can give that name from a website a life and personality.

    This is a great exercise. Its time to start appreciating what God blessed us with, not with what He blessed someone else with. He blesses us with something because its meant to be for us, just as He blesses someone else with something as it is meant to be for them.

    ~Ivie
    iviewrites.blogspot.com

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    1. "Its time to start appreciating what God blessed us with, not with what He blessed someone else with." AMEN, Ivie! I loved reading your list, it's absolutely beautiful and inspiring. Keep writing!!

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  2. "and let's face it, we always come out on the bottom". lovelovelove because I SO MUCH EMBODY THIS WHOLE POST ALL THE TIME. Actively working AGAINST this mindset but it is SO hard.

    1. I like that my characters stick around inside my head like it's their personal lounge room
    2. I love the way I write dialogue that reads the way people actually speak
    3. literary devices and unconventional sentence structure
    4. characters who LAUGH
    5. I like blogging in list format
    6. reading old stories and crying over the emotion I don't remember feeling at the time
    7. readers who treat my characters like people
    8. notebooks I've filled with story ideas
    9. how my writing is people-oriented
    10. descriptions+word pictures
    11. emotion on the page but actively having an effect on the speed of someone else's pulse

    thanks for this, Kate! xo

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    1. I feel you 200% Olivia! Keep at it, you're awesome. "I like that my characters stick around inside my head like it's their personal lounge room" < and thaaaat is such a great mental image! Also, the last one on your list, woooo, straight up fire

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  3. Whoa, so cool. This was just awesome, Kate. A. W. E. S. O. M. E. I totally compare my art to other artists. Except I fool myself into thinking that it's for my benefit or some dumb reason.

    I. I like how I have never heard my writing style in any other book before
    II. I see past blank emotions and dull colors and then revive them
    III. I love the way I draw my eyes, mouths and ears
    IV. When I write I get this feeling of productivity that I just love
    V. When I write, I express myself through words that have thousands of different layers because at the last one you see ME
    VI. My photography inspires me to write poetry, the butterflies and the flowers and the clouds
    VII. I like my clothing style <3
    VIII. The notebook that I fill very aesthetically and neatly with everything for my novel
    IX. My hand lettering that I love to adorn on everything
    X. I like my handwriting
    XI. I love the way my writing has influenced my being

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    1. Ameliaaaa, thank you so so much. Your comment was an inspiration to my day, and your words mean so much to me! I think so many of us get caught in that trap of thinking comparison is somehow for our own good... we just need to gently and lovingly remind ourselves that we are UNIQUE beings, and we were not made to just sound like the next person! Love your list, girl!

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  4. "Comparison is the thief of joy."

    Honestly, most of my life has been dedicated to comparison in every area of my skills. It is so horrible to live according to performance. A performance-based life is so draining and unfulfilling.

    Lovely post, super important for so many people. :)

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    1. everything you just said is so right on i want to just freakin highlight my laptop screen in sharpie.

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  5. Wowowow Kate you are queen for these reminders xxx Never ever doubt your incredible awesomeness, you are something else <3

    i. i am a good descriptive writer
    ii. i am compassionate and my pen yearns to be a voice for the voiceless
    iii. i am a poet at heart
    iv. i sketch pictures to sooth myself and they often turn out nicely
    v. i love aesthetics and i excel at making them :)
    vi. my handwriting has gotten much better and i actually feel comfortable with using pens
    vii. i journal, scrapbook journal
    viii. i spend a lot of time getting the perfect shot and tweaking photos from an iphone because i don't have a camera
    ix. i am a nurturer and i am there for anyone who ever needs me
    x. i love my family and would do anything for them
    xi. God has made me who i am and the things i do today are all because of Him

    Thank you so much for this Kate, you are such a wise figure to us all and WOW I feel so much better after making that list :) <3 God bless you girl, you are one explosively beautiful firework in the dark sky <3

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    1. alright, your comment was a tear jerker :') <3 thank you so much, Anna! i love your list, you beautiful soul. keep at it all!

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  6. As soon as I saw this, I was like "yay, Kate wrote about it." And I could not imagine a more timely post. It hits home because I was in that place this week - feeling discouraged about all my art, second guessing myself about everything - stupid stuff that isn't true at all.

    I'm going to have to think about that list - long and hard. In fact, I'm going to write it this week and hang it on my wall to look at everyday.

    I don't even know how to say thank you for your kind comments about my blog.
    xoxo
    k.

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    1. YAYAYAYAAY YES.... and chatting with you about it on twitter definitely made me realize that it was worth a blog post. go you, Keira. keep doing what you do because it is AWESOME and so, so, so worth it! your art is beautiful <3

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  7. You always bring the fire with your posts! Love this. It's so easy to compare but there is something beautiful about joyfully celebrating our own gifts. I think it also helps us to cheer others on! :)

    1. God foreknew me and the gifts He would give me and that is beautiful
    2. I love the songs and lyrics and melodies that come out of me
    3. My flair for design
    4. Photography adventures
    5. How my characters feel like living, breathing human beings
    6. My dedication to always creating and setting goals
    7. My aesthetic
    8. Getting to blog and meet so many wonderful creative people
    9. My humor
    10. SO MUCH JOURNALING
    11. Creativity in the quiet moments when there are no readers, no audience

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    1. "It's so easy to compare but there is something beautiful about joyfully celebrating our own gifts" <<<< AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN

      Erin, i love your list and YOU, you awesome, talented soul! Keep making music & beautiful words that touch hearts

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  8. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. <3333 this post is SOLID GOLD BAE ;)

    this list should be easy *maniacal laughter*

    1. I like how many plot bunnies attack me every week
    2. I like it when I think of really good metaphors
    3. I like writing across from you at the table
    4. I like that my books can make people laugh
    5. I like how I can literally see the $2,000,000 budget major motion picture that my book will one day become IN MY HEAD
    6. I like my singing voice and how it's unconventional and emotional
    7. I like the fact that my writing has also made mom cry ;) MUAHAHAH
    8. I like my Pinterest boards THEY ARE THE BEST
    9. I like my face
    10. I like the way I can make a pretty Instagram grid
    11. I like making you laugh

    xoxoxoxo
    boyz

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    1. pls can i copy and paste your beautiful + perfect amount of ego to myself <3

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  9. 1. I like that my writing is unique
    2. I like that I can fall in love with every character i create
    3. I like that my writing has made people cry too!
    4. I like that I can stick to projects to the very end
    5. I like that my stories are my own
    6. I like that writing gives me a voice
    7. I like that I've been called a "still waters run deep" kinda person x)
    8. I like the feeling i get when i write a sentence that's straight fire
    9. I like that writing has led me to this amazing blogging community
    10. I like that I can see myself writing for the rest of my life
    11. I love that God has given me this talent

    Thanks Kate x) I needed this. <3

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    1. ABBBBYYY <3 I have so much love for this list; it's beautiful. i know what you mean about that feeling of writing something that is straight fire. BEST FEELING, MAN

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