Comparison is the Enemy of Creativity
Updated: Jul 15, 2020
One of the biggest difficulties I've had to surmount as an artist is comparing myself to other artists, or worse, comparing my art to theirs. Being on social media nowadays and seeing all the amazing artwork that everyone is posting, sometimes makes you feel like you do not have anything valuable to contribute. It can also be discouraging if you feel like your art isn't getting where you want it to be as quickly as you'd like it to.
For me, in particular, having three little boys makes finding time to make art or to be creative pretty challenging. So I've had to be really creative with ways to stretch my limited time and keep myself productive. I also try to do something to improve my art and move it toward the goal I set for myself.
I would often compare myself to others based on where I found myself, artistically speaking. I didn't think I was growing fast enough or making much progress and that type of thinking was a giant roadblock. Everyone is at a different level and working toward something or other. Looking at artist A and wishing to be as talented as they are is okay, but feeling that they are so good that we can never get to that level and quitting before we even start, is where we run into problems.
Artist A has had just as many tough times getting to the level they have reached. They started with a sketch, worked on it over and over, and reached a final drawing. By the time they post that drawing to Instagram, they have made many, many revisions and are proud enough of it to share it online. What I am looking at is essentially a curated version of their finished work.
Artist A is already in Chapter 20 of their artistic journey. That means, they have had a lot of time to practice and perfect whatever it is that you envy right now. What social media should do for you in this regard is to show you where you can be. All you have to do is put in the work as often as your schedule and circumstances permit. Every time you pick up a pencil to draw you won't necessarily end up with a completed work of art. If you take the time to work on that first sketch for an additional 2 hours or even several times that week, the result will look nothing like the first try. So instead of being saddened that your first sketch looks nothing like someone else's fiftieth sketch, work instead to get to your fiftieth sketch and compare that to your first.
I followed Artist A's advice over the years to only compare my work against itself. The inevitable boost of confidence that comes with the realization that you grew and made progress, can only lead you to create more art.
It did for me!
About 2 years ago I fell in love with bullet journaling. With that came the love of modern calligraphy and hand-lettering. I followed countless YouTube tutorials and learned how to do it. Today when I look at my very 1st attempt at hand-lettering, I can see that my lines were shaky and some words were crooked. My letters were not even and some of them were narrow while others were wide. Today, my hand-lettering looks much more even and cleaner than it was. I never saw the improvement while I was in the middle of practice but one day I flipped through my 2017 bullet journal and saw the difference between the beginning pages and the end.
I kept practicing without really thinking of it as practice. I just really enjoyed writing in that style. I enjoyed learning different styles of calligraphy and I really enjoyed playing with all those markers, to be honest. I mean who doesn't love a good Tombow Dual Brush Pen, am I right?
Every day was about playing with the markers and playing with art, just enjoying using the materials in my bullet journal. I even practiced making small prints for my house. I just found it so therapeutic that I didn't really think much about making it look good for posting. I just thought "I really wanna write this quote" or "I really want to hand-letter that phrase" and I just went for it.
Whenever I am afraid to try something new or think that my art isn't good enough, I flip through my bullet journal. Having something tangible to look at makes it easier for me to shut those voices up. Do you have anything like that? If not, I recommend starting today.
Pick up a pen or pencil and a piece of paper and make something you've always wanted to make then set it aside. Don't worry about how it looks. Tomorrow, make it again. And then again the next day, and the day after that. Get to 30 pictures, however long it takes you - 30 days or more, that's ok! Just get to 30. Then pull out your first attempt and place it next to your 30th one, and voilà! Look at both, and see your progress. Sometimes it will be small, sometimes it will be tremendous, but either way, there will be progress because it is impossible to practice and not improve.
So from now on whenever you see someone's beautiful art, appreciate it. Appreciate it and understand how they got there without letting it break you down. Let it boost you and encourage and inspire you to make something too. Really great art makes you want to be artistic and creative too. Don't let the negative seep in! Take the positive and run with that. Go make something more for another 30 days, or less, or more! Try different materials, different colors, different surfaces, and finishes but most of all: Enjoy Yourself!
If you try this, I'd love to see it! Tag me on Instagram so I can see it, or leave me a note and I will check out your work.
Until next time!