Does everyone seem to be doing better than you? Do you feel stuck, when others appear to be forging ahead? Kali Anthony talks about how comparing yourself to others, can bring your life and creative process to a standstill.
It all started with a tweet about #PitMad.
For those of you who don’t know, #PitMad is a pitching event on Twitter where writers tweet pitches for their completed manuscripts. Agents and publishers can call for submissions, if interested in what they see. Friends of mine, had had requests for samples of their manuscript based on tweets with that hashtag. It was crazy. It was awesome! Wasn’t it?
I saw the tweets, the successes which may or may not lead to someone’s story being finally picked up after years of trying, and the questions started. Why wasn’t I doing it? Maybe it’s because I didn’t WANT it enough? I wasn’t HUNGRY enough to be published. I was CHICKEN. You know what happened next? I FROZE.
Creativity is a fragile thing. It doesn’t take much (in my experience) to knock it off course, and bring you to a screeching halt. Usually the way past it is to remind yourself that if you’re serious, this is a job not a game and you have to treat is as such and work your way through. It’s kind of like writer’s block, which I’ve heard described by one author at its heart as, “performance anxiety.” Keep writing and you’ll eventually get over yourself.
Comparison to others, though, is more insidious. As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” For me, I began to think everyone was better. I wouldn’t succeed because I wasn’t trying hard enough. You guessed it, I stopped writing.
But it’s more than that. Studies have shown that social comparison can lead to depression. This tends to be focussed on social media and the (seemingly) fabulous lives of others, which you don’t (appear to) have because you’re up to your arms in cat spew/kid’s homework/ill parents/anxiety/insert-whatever-crosses-you-have-to-bear-here, however comparing your creative process to others can be just as destructive. The truth is, no-one’s journey is the same as yours. You don’t know what insecurities lurk behind everyone’s curated life.
And you can bet (it’s not a criticism, merely an observation) that all lives on social media are curated in some way. Mine included.
During my creative inertia, I remembered a conversation I had with an architect who’d come to our home to chat about doing some renovations (still not done, but that’s another story). When I apologised for the state of my house (husband/kids/pets/life generally equals chaos – you know it) and how I’m sure all the other houses he saw were perfect and pristine he laughed and said, “You need better places to hide it. Everyone’s cupboards are messy.”
That observation by someone who should know, reminded me that we’re all the same. We show what we want to show, see what we want to see and shove the mess behind a door.
So how to get over the curse of comparison? What I’d forgotten, is that I had a plan. I knew what I wanted, and how I was going to set about getting it. It may not be perfect, it may not be right for everyone, but it was right for me. Because I have a crazy (albeit part-time) job and a family. Which is different from the writer who has to care for their elderly parents, or the one who can write full time but struggles with poor health, or the writer who works full time and snatches tiny moments to attack their manuscript. We can only do, what we can do.
After some navel gazing I decided to relax, realising what I knew at the start, that #PitMad took vauable time I didn't have for a benefit I assessed as questionable, for me. Maybe one day it would feel like a comfortable fit, but not now. I’d written my plan, and I was sticking to it because it suited who I was in that moment.
So, on the days you’re saying to yourself, “I'll have what she’s having” remember this. What she’s having might not be right for you and anyhow, her cupboards are probably as messy as yours.
Happy New Year, and happy writing!
Kali is a writer of happy endings and failed domestic goddess. She will work for coffee, wine and chocolate! For more information follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Do you find you compare yourself to others? How to you combat the curse of comparison? Let us know here or on PHS social media. We'd love to hear from you!