Comparison Kills the Creative Cat

Comparison Kills the Creative Cat – by Lucy Griffiths

Defined as, “the use of imagination or original ideas to create something” creativity is just that – original. Yet, for many, it seems that one of the major barriers to the expression of their creativity, whatever form that takes, is the ill-fated & overstated entrance of comparison. In fact, from a personal place of comparison-confession, I would go as far to say that nothing kills creativity as abruptly or catastrophically as comparison.

Creativity, in whatever context or expression, is one of the greatest & most freeing abilities that any of us are blessed with. We all always have the ability (and luxury) to express creativity in our own, completely unique way(s). There are generally no facts, figures, or rules – creativity is ours to hatch & then develop, nurture, master & Mother in whatever way personally & naturally flows.

I always feel like children have a magical ability to freely create without any real awareness of other people. They draw, paint, build, write, invent, dance, sing, imagine, act, without any real consideration as to whether anyone might have previously done it better/faster/more in tune. Children appear to always meet creative opportunities “head-on”, with both wonder & excitement & when they do look to the outside world, they normally only adore the works of others & heroise its creator.

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” Pablo Picasso

Admiration is comparison’s more honorable associate; it sees the wonder, respect and awe in another’s creative outputs. Admiration allows for a more encouraging journey of curiosity, seeking inspiration, with the prospect of expanding any awareness of possibility or opportunity and is conducted whilst totally respecting the work of its original creator.

But lines blur when honor disappears and admiration turns to comparison. Comparison, in the context of creativity, can highlight feelings of (self-) judgment, over-evaluation, fear &…jealousy. It is entirely possible to kill creations with comparative judgment before we’ve birthed them, and almost always after the mental-entrance of that one little word – can’t.

I wish I could dance like them, but I can’t…
I can’t draw like that and I never will…
I just can’t ever get my writing to flow like theirs…

Many of the most standout creative expressions are famed, celebrated and repeatedly appreciated because they are: different/unusual/distinctive/unique…original. And yet, the search of self-approval often comes from being able to say “Is XYZ as good as when XYZ did it?” How can we even begin to liken ‘original’ to ‘original’? Doing so only removes the exclusive power that we all have – being, doing & expressing ‘us’.

“Stay in your own lane. Comparison is the thief of creativity & joy.” Brene Brown.

It is seemingly easy when dancing with the comparison devil to forget that it may (probably…almost definitely) have also taken the “creative genius” that we are comparing ourselves to multiple attempts, strength, sleepless nights & tears to perfect the final version that they show – their moves, or their photography, or their writing, or their art, or to be able to hit that high-note every.single.time.

Natural ability & hunger goes some way, just knowing you have a love, interest or enjoyment for something & developing your “thing”, but mastering it whilst (most importantly) “staying in your own lane” & being self-forgiving are probably fundamental aspects to really achieving creative accomplishment. And, I guess, the more times we complete our creative missions, the more confident & assured we can be the next time we come to creatively-embark.

Where curiosity kills the cat that unnecessarily seeks out danger, it is comparison that can kill the creative ones, thieving the pride of their originality & pulling them from their “lane”. If everyone had the exact same talents, created & refined in the exact same way, then it would almost just become a rule, a creative rule, without originality or personality…

1 Comment

  • May 23, 2017 at 11:55 am // Reply

    I love this Lucy – thank you so much for putting this down so beautifully.
    After 30 years of using my creativity in advertising and marketing and feeling safe due to length of service and hard learning, I am just stepping into the more personally exposed world of travel writing. I could never have imagined how a 53 year old could feel so scared and vulnerable. The fear and self doubt that comes with this transition has at times been paralyzing and its as much about self judgement as it is about being judged. so thank you for reminding me to play with it and see the journey with child like eyes of discovery and excitement. The quotes say it all…so thank you again …when I am starting to sway of course I will support myself to move back into my own lane knowing that this in itself is perfect!

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