Don’t Look Sideways


“Comparison is a killjoy: it will steal every ounce of contentment in your heart. It will rob you of perspective and leave you feeling empty.” – Kristen Welch

Artists in all genres are really good at looking over the fence. Comparing what’s over there, to what you have over here. Suffering from the ‘grass is always greener’ mentality. I’m certainly not immune – Oh I wish I had written that. Oh I don’t write like that, I’m no good. Oh they got that award, that teaching gig, that production. Why them and not me? What are they doing I’m not? Why is their lawn so beautiful lush and green, while I’m crunching through crab grass. I’m no good, I’m no good. On and on it goes.

“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself” Max Ehrmann

It becomes a plague in your artistic life to always be looking elsewhere and comparing yourself to others. The blight grows and grows until we are nothing but a shell. We have no opinion on our own work, just that it’s not as good as everyone else’s. We have no faith in our skills. We have nothing. We are nothing.

How is that a way to live? How is that a way to move forward with your art? It’s tiring, and it’s less than productive. You’re not creating anything new when you compare. It’s a never ending circle.

“I will not reason and compare my business is to create.” – William Blake

The only way to fight this need to look sideways, to peer over the fence, to beat everyone to the punch and beat ourselves down, is to do your work. Work makes me so happy, I’m thrilled when I writing well, when I can see words marching across the page. Whenever I get into that mode, when a big ‘woe is me’ session is threatening the edges I make a promise to myself: write for five minutes. That’s it. No grand work session. No vaulting mountains. Five minutes of writing and then if I still want to partake in the pity party, I can.

More often than not, I just keep writing.

Besides, here’s the thing. It is impossible to be like others and get what they do. Until the scientists figure out how to make the masses only use one brain between us, we all use our own. We all think uniquely and differently. We approach life in our own special way. So even if we were given the opportunities of said owner of the beautiful lush green grass, who knows if we’d get the same results. There is no way to replicate the thinking patterns of others.

And here’s this too. When we think someone has it better, has more opportunities, is being a better artist than us – how do you know they’re not looking sideways at you? That they’re not looking over the fence at you? How do you know they don’t see your supposed crab grass and long for it?

 “When you stop comparing what is right here and now with what you wish were, you can begin to enjoy what is.” Cheri Huber

So instead of focusing on others and what they do, focus on what you do. Do your work. Write your play. Dance your dance. Act in the way that you know how to do. Yes others will get jobs that you want. Yes others will succeed. But if you keep looking forward instead of to the left or right, you will move forward.

About the author

Lindsay Price