Comparison, we all fall. Today I listened to a superb podcast episode by Kayte Ferris of Simple & Season, who has a new podcast called 'Grow With Soul'. Today she interviewed the very talented Kara Leigh Ford a ceramicist from Somerset and maker of some beautiful works. One of the subjects they covered was the brilliantly termed 'Comparisonitis'. (wish I'd thought of that name first).
A little bit of competitive energy is a good thing. Two shoe shops on the same street means the word spreads that shoes are available and paying customers are likely to drop into the other shop before making their purchase. More feet on pavements as it were. This is how it used to be, before the internet.
Fast forward 20 or 30 years and we have businesses such as mine that are primarily online. Our shops are virtual, our reach is wide and there are a lot of us to choose from.
We makers (that have been doing this for sometime) spend time on our visual photographs & messages, crafting them to represent the core of our businesses, only then do we send out into the world.
Becoming good at this takes time and money, if you have some to spend on learning. There are many great courses out there – (see Sarah Tasker for just one superstar teacher) and if you are serious about online harvesting, I would suggest you take a course or two.
So when you are starting out, considering a change or researching a potential life change, it’s easy to see these feeds and fall into the comparison trap. As humans we each have our own inner critic. It is there to protect us from potentially ‘letting ourselves down’ and if allowed, our critics will happily talk us out of anything that we think we might like to have a go at. By comparing ourselves to others, we are instantly taking ourselves down a peg or ten.
The answer to this is acknowledgement. Talk to yourself as you would your best friend. Thank your inner critic for pointing all these negative possibilities but tell it that you are going to move forward anyway – this, I find is a good antidote and allow me to turn the volume down on it.
How do I deal with Comparisonitus personally? Well, perhaps daftly, I don’t tend to look too deeply into other makers lives, or the ones that they are projecting online. Much as I realise the importance of research, I take a swift steer away from anything that I’d like to be too much!
I can only find my true value by making work that I personally deem as new and exciting. My work comes from my tummy, not my head and more often than not, not via extensive research of what is already out there.
I find a quick five minute scan suits me fine. I like to see what works for others of course, but not hang around too long so it steers me off my own course.
I remember some 15 years ago I had a successful collection of paintings that involved very happy, cheerful, voluptuous ladies, they sold really well and were made into all sorts of licensed products.
Did I have a dip into the beautiful work of Beryl Cook? Yes, but simply a 2 minute dip, any longer would have left me questioning a: why I was making these anyway seeing as she had already done it so beautifully, and b: her splendid ideas might well seep into my own, this I couldn’t risk.
Art School teaches us that there is nothing new under the sun and most ideas have been explored before, but take heart - you are the only one making your own work and there is plenty of room for everyone.
Go ahead, get going, then get better. Improving can only happen over time so enjoy the journey and don’t pay too much heed to your inner critic, thank it then move on.