At the beginning of the current Wildfire Writing session, my students were amazed at the differences in their writing. There was a lot of comparing, and I heard comments like, "Gosh, I wish my story sounded like hers," or "Mine's so depressing compared to everyone else's." I always tell them, you can't compare. It saps confidence. Some of the writers are funny, some imaginative, some observant, some abstract, some bubbly, some dark. Each has to learn, appreciate and develop his own voice.
Now, almost two months later, the writers understand why comparing is useless. You can love another's work and learn from it while not envying it.
And then, I became a beginner myself - crosstraining in visual art, I call it - through watercolor painting. In an early assignment, I was struck by how different my painting was from that of my talented friend Lisa. Interestingly, we were painting from the same photo. I was tempted to say, "Gosh, I wish mine looked like hers."
Lisa's painting here, as you can see, is deep and warm. Lovely! My painting (top of this post) is light and washy. I was tempted not to like it, with Lisa's work so rich and pretty at my elbow. Then I remembered what I teach.
So I decided to find joy in the fact that one scene can be so many things, depending on the hand that holds the brush. Beginners compare, while seasoned artists appreciate differences, not envying, but striving to develop their own unique approach - with confidence.
In short: don't ever let anyone else's fine work keep you from doing and enjoying your very own art.
Think back on your week. Where have you compared yourself with others? And here are more thoughts on comparing.