Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stay Creative Every Day Tip #8: Give up Comparisons

I have a friend who hates pink. I adore it. My friend is, I think, a much better artist than I am, maybe because of her palette choices! But I don’t want to give up pink, and I don’t want to berate myself just because someone else doesn’t like roses and kitten paws. Which leads me to Stay Creative Every Day Tip #8: Never compare yourself to others.

The day I learned to stop competing, stop comparing, and truly enjoy the creative life I’ve chosen was a few years ago when I wanted to try using a high-fire glaze on a small vase in my very small kiln. The kiln is capable of reaching a high setting, but that’s more of a theory than a reality. Anyway, I carefully glazed what I thought was one of my best vases in the required 3 coats, let them dry for the appropriate amount of time, and then proceeded to fire up the kiln. After hours and hours of extreme heat, followed by hours and hours of cooling, I opened the kiln. And the vase was absolutely hideous. Not only had the glaze virtually disappeared (what was meant to be a lovely peacock blue was a dull puce) but the clay surface had a weird, bumpy feel similar to ostrich skin. I was miserable. I was a loser. I couldn’t even fire a 4-inch vase. The potters featured in Ceramics Monthly were so much BETTER than me. I would never even make it to my first show. I set the thing aside on a side shelf and tried to find something else to do. 

A few days later the afternoon sun pierced through the blinds in my studio and hit the vase in such a way that made it suddenly glow, forcing me to pick it up for a second look. Miraculously, it was beautiful, as in seriously fine. Sure, the glaze wasn’t at all what I had planned, but it had personality. The “weird” texture was, dare I say, interesting. I found myself oddly moved; I felt that if there had been any failure on my part it was that I had failed to appreciate this little vase that was just trying to be itself rather than the image I had wanted to impose upon it. Now it’s one of my prized pieces and takes pride of place on my bookcase. Lesson learned: Everyone and everything has an innate timing, integrity, and direction. My job is to just let that emerge naturally, and always do the best I can without worrying, and without the need to compare. The best ways I found to do that are to:
  • Find what you love to do. 
  • Find what you do well—and raise the bar only when you think you’re ready to go there. 
  • Don’t give up because someone else is supposedly “better” at your chosen craft. 
  • And be honest. Don’t go in the other direction and disparage the “bad work” of others when you might be a teensy bit, um, envious. (Yes, I’ve done that too.)
Tip of the day: If you find yourself constantly comparing your work to that of others, the best way to stop is to start a daily gratitude and appreciation list. Every evening, list 12 things that you did well that day. They don’t have to be acts of great heroism or award-winning works of art; in fact, the minute you stop judging your accomplishments for NOT being as amazing or fantastic as you think they’re supposed to be, you'll be safely out of the “compare and despair” zone. Happy creating, and don’t forget you can get the full PDF of Stay Creative Every Day tips right here.

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