On Comparison

I feel like I’ve heard somewhere that comparison is the death of the artist.  If I haven’t heard it somewhere, then apparently I’m more creative than I thought.  Comparing oneself to others is detrimental to one’s wellbeing – whether that comparison stems from artistic ability or simply from physical appearance.  It’s never good to compare what you do what others do, just like it is never good to compare how many friends you have to how many others have.  Comparisons like these just make way for doubt and fear to creep in, and no one who hangs on to either of those emotions is successful in the grand scheme of things.

I’m sure we’ve all heard this before.  I may sound like a broken record right now (in fact, that simile may be just as annoying as a broken record at this point in history), but it’s true.  Nevertheless, it’s always much easier to say than to actually put into practice.  Even now, I know that the first paragraph of this post – that I wrote, nonetheless – is on the verge of being hypocritical.  I know all of these things.  I know that comparing myself to others in any way, shape, or form is a bad habit to have – but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy habit to break.  It seems like the tendency to compare is in our nature.  Take a look at comparisons related to other areas of life, for example.  At the grocery store, we compare prices.  In the car on the way to work, we compare the songs that come on over the radio, picking which one is our favorite.  We compare cars, we compare schools, we compare jobs, we compare books.  It’s part of living day to day life.  Some of these types of comparisons are not bad at all – far from it, really.  But sometimes comparison can take over and it becomes all to easy to live your life comparing it to the lives of others.

This is certainly true for me, and I have been feeling my habit to compare coming on strong the past couple of days.  I have been struggling with the future (what’s new?) and trying to talk myself out of applying to grad school.  I want to go to grad school.  I really want to go to grad school.  But then I look at the writers who actually get into MFA programs and compare my writing to theirs, and I have doubts.  Then I look at the caliber of the students who are awarded graduate teaching assistantships and I feel uncertain.  Then I look at how hard it is to get funding at my top choice schools compared to other schools and I’m scared.  It can be very hard at times trying to get into a creative field.  There’s really no way to compare writers to each other.  There’s no strict standard I can compare my writing to in order to tell if it’s great.  The world of writing is a varying one, and there’s often no way to tell what will be a huge success and what will flop.  Sometimes the exact opposite of what is expected happens, and there’s simply not a way to predict that.

While it’s definitely hard to stop comparing my writing to others, it’s not impossible.  Actually, it’s not altogether bad (though I would say it’s mostly bad).  In order to learn how to write well, I must emulate authors who I admire and who are considered great writers.  Is this a form of comparison? Yes.  Is it a bad form of comparison?  Not necessarily.  Ultimately, comparison is not beneficial when taken too far.  When comparison denotes value, then there’s something wrong.  I’m learning not to let comparison bar me from living life.  I’m not going to let my doubts and fears get in the way of applying to grad school.  There’s no harm in trying, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you, or me, when it comes to our creative endeavors.  We are all unique and have different talents, and that means that there is no comparison when it comes to any one of us.  We must reign in the habitual comparing in order to become successful.

On Consistency

Last week was the first week that I failed to write a post.  I went from a published piece on Thursday to this new piece on Sunday, with nothing in between.  Although I certainly have not been on this little blogging venture for long, I have been consistent.  I’ve churned out a post every week since I started this thing back in April, and I must say that I feel a little dissappointed in myself for not having something ready to go last week.  I’ve skipped a week, and while that little tiny blunder is going to cause my perfectionist brain to have an aneurysm (figuratively at least), I know that it’s okay.

I even have a good reason.  More than one good reason to be precise.  For one thing, it was a holiday week.  I know, I know – that doesn’t make for an excuse, but it does make the week feel a little wonky.  Where was it that I used that word lately? Wonky.  I even looked it up – it’s British in origin, for those who are wondering.  Now every time I hear it I am going to hear each syllable in a British accent.  The other excuse I have for not posting last week is that my first summer class began.  Summer classes this year are an odd combination of being the bane of my existence and my saving grace (for more on why I’m taking summer classes, see here), but that first class has made the last week of my life a little bit crazy.  It was four days in a row for almost eight hours each day.  My hours being consumed with leadership practices, creating a presentation, and working on group projects made focusing on this blog a little bit difficult.

I’m not sure why I’ve decided to turn this post into an excuse-fest.  I think I’m trying to explain my actions to myself.  You see, my greatest fear is disappointing myself.  If I can wake up everyday and feel pleased with who I am and what I have accomplished, then I’ll be happy.  It’s when I wake up in the morning dreading what I have to do that day, or having an unfinished task nagging at me in the back of my mind that I’m miserable.  One of my New Years words (I decided to do words and ideas this year instead of resolutions) was consistency.  I didn’t know that this word would eventually apply to my blog, but it has.  Not writing a post last week felt like breaking a promise to myself.

Consistency is so important to a writer.  Without it, fishing one voice from the sea of many is virtually impossible.  As a writer, I believe that I need to be consistent in what I put out into the world.  I need to make sure that what I say sounds like I would say it; that it holds true to my values and beliefs; and that it appears on the World Wide Web when I said it would.  Granted, I’ve never promised anyone that I’d publish every week, but my brain likes to think that it counts as a separate individual.  I promised myself.

Who knows why I’ve decided to get so personal for this post.  Although I think I’ve often gotten pretty up close and personal with other posts, this one seems different.  It’s showing the world the inner workings of my brain.  Some of you will probably think that I’m a psycho control freak – and maybe I am.  I’ve always been brutally hard on myself, especially when it comes to my personal creative endeavors, and this blog is very important to me.  I don’t want to let it, or myself, down.

But I also need to lighten up.  I get that.  I’m going to publish this, and all will be well in the world.  Even when I didn’t publish last week, the world kept turning, God was still good, the grass was still green, and I still had summer classes (which is just dreadful, really).  I need to learn to be okay with whatever happens.  Consistency is important, but so is my sanity.

I think that this is enough for today.  Rambling on about blog posts and consistency won’t help anything, but publishing this will help my schedule get back on track.  I’ll no longer wake up with that nagging in the back of my head to get something posted here, and my days will no longer seem wonky (you heard an accent there this time, right?)

On Risking it All

“Risk being seen in all of your glory.” 

I watched a video recently of a keynote address that Jim Carrey gave several years ago, and in it he said the above quote.  “Risk being seen in all of your glory.”  His speech, like many commencement speeches, was encouraging graduates to continue on in their lives with the caveat that they need to be their best selves.  He was encouraging them all to not let the light of their talent go dim and to give what they have to the world, because the world needs it.  This quote, though, is what really stood out to me.

Every person out there has something that they burn for.  Something that grabs a hold of them and doesn’t let them go.  I thin for me, this is writing.  For others, it’s music, teaching, helping others, or sports.  There are so many things that so many people are passionate about.  What stood out to me in Jim Carrey’s speech was the idea of risking it all in favor of letting your passion out into the world.  That passion is, theoretically, what you are good at.  It’s what you are able to wake up in the morning and be excited about.  Risk putting it all out there into the world, because it will be worth it.  You could fail miserably and end up stuck, but risk that anyway.  Risk everything for a chance at doing what you love.

While the word “risk” definitely stood out, the second part of this quote cannot be ignored.  For me, the second part can be summed up in the last word: glory. Take that passion and make it magnificent.  Put so much effort and sweat into this thing so that you, and everyone around you, is blinded by the light at the end of it.  So that it keeps shining on.  So that it can be seen in all of its glory – so you can be seen in all of your glory.

When I say you, I mean you reading this.  But I also mean me.  I need to listen to this too.  I need to dive headfirst in the pool  ocean of writing and swim so far and so deep that I can’t get out again.  I want to drown in my craft so that when I finally see the light of day every inch of my being will be soaked in words that I must put on the page.  I want to risk being seen in all my glory, because it would be excruciating to not risk it all and wonder – to not even attempt to shine. You, reading this, you should too. Let’s risk it.