Saturday, July 23, 2011

Constantly Comparing Yourself To Other Artists


Before I delve into this, let me reference a post on The Book of Kells where Kelli Agodon shares a list of How to Feel Miserable as an Artist (Or What Not to Do).  There are 10 entries to this list and two that especially jump out at me are numbers 1 & 8.  I'm thinking I will over the next couple of weeks post a response to all of these but for today. Number 1 it is!

When I was reading the list and saw the very first item I thought, Don't we all? Is there anyone who doesn’t compare yourself to other artists? Do I see any hands? I didn't think so. I think I do it in so many ways.... so and so just won the Best Darned Chapbooks Award this side of the Mississippi Award and what have I won lately. Suzy-Q has 7 poems in No-Tell Motel this month or Sam has poems in three journals in a month.... what have I got **heavy sigh**

The inclination is to use others as a yard stick to decide how you measure up. Right now if I list my top 10 favorite poets and you ask me to write next to their name when I think I might measure up to each of them beside their name I can tell you the answer in each case is going to be the same. Never!

The odds are each of them probably can make a similar list and likely answer it the same. In art especially, I'm pretty sure that we do the yard-stick test with others and it is a failing proposition.

Any one of the ten items on the list is probably not a healthy activity but when we start collecting 3 or four or more of these faults, I'm pretty sure that a frustrated if not miserable artist begins to emerge.

When someone I know has a new book come out I try to make a conscious effort to congratulate them. First of all being supportive of your peers is a good thing. But if we don't look at these achievements of others in a positive light I thing the opposite begins to creep in and take over our psyche. We start to feel short changed and even jealous. I have several friends who have new books that have recently come out or are due out in a matter of weeks. It becomes so easy to allow their successes to place you and an important manuscript project you are working on into a "woe is me mode" and then you start to think about it and you say as rationalization, "ah yes, but I'm not that good and I never will be."

I know if you are a writer you have doubted yourself. And probably by comparison to some other writer. So share your secrets... when you realized that you've slipped on this slippery slope how do you get yourself back on your two feet?
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