On Creativity and Comparison



Ergh, it can be an achy little thing can’t it?

That double edged sword that can sometimes leave you feeling a little superior, a little hoighty-toighty, but just as you’re happily sauntering down smug lane, it’ll swing back the other way and smack you on your behind.

Everyone has done it at some point, and will likely continue to do it in to the future: compare yourself, and fall short of said comparison. Especially if you’re a relative beginner in a field that is filled with talented and brilliant people at the very top of their game. Looking down at your work, and then glancing up at the stunning beauty and success of your idols can be a stomach churning experience.

Today’s post is a quick little pep talk (for you as much as me), to remind us to stay the path, and to hold on tightly to what got us on to our paths in the first place – our taste and passion.


The fantastic Ira Glass, host of This American Life, has this to say about creativity, comparison and what nobody tells beginners:

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me – is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.

It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Brilliant, hey? And oh so true.

Ira was speaking about people who produce videos, but as soon as I read it I thought about my writing. It’s applicability is universal to any pursuit.

I think the key thing here is to focus on two things: ixnay on the destructive self-judgement of your work, and keep on churning it out. The gap between where you are now and your ambitions will only be filled with your effort and sweat and commitment to honing your craft.

Stay on your team. Don’t abandon yourself because you don’t live up to the masters in your field yet.

But also, keep reading, watching, and learning from those you admire and whose talent just makes you want to weep with admiration.

Because they’ve likely been where you are too, staring up at their idols with the same frustrations and fear that you have now.

And you know what? I have a sneaking suspicion that this feeling never goes away completely. That even those you admire and aspire to emulate, compare themselves sometimes and find themselves falling a little short.

Have you been wrestling with the comparison monster lately? Who won?

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  • Lou

    This is brilliant advice, thank you so much for sharing. I never looked at it this way and from now on – each time I get frustrated I will remember that the people who inspire me most likely felt the same way at some point.
    Thanks – Lou xx

  • Jessie Wells

    Thanks for this post and the quotations – Brilliant points! You’re so right that this applies to any endeavour that involves thinking creatively – including science as well as arts. So often I’ve focused on the negatives – the gap between what I generate and my ideas or plans, and the even larger gaps between what I generate and what I think others do. Looking at these as negatives is the opposite of inspiration. This post has made me think a lot more about how to look at the gaps as ‘diminishable’, to feel fine about the gaps that will always exist, and to see brilliance in others (attainable or not) as an inspiration. Thanks!

    • Carly

      Thanks, Jessie! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Those gaps are diminishable, and I daresay will shrink at a rapid pace for you! xx

  • mekalie

    Very much needed to read this!
    Love this quote and love the insight from Ira Glass. Thank u!

  • Sally Wilson

    Love this Carly! That quote from Ira Glass is amazing, resonated so powerfully with me.
    Just wanted to say well done on your lovely + inspiring blog, I have been wanting to start one too and am off now to check out the blogging ebook you recommended. But I must admit I am a little intimidated by all the brilliant ones out there!
    Hopefully catch up with you soon 🙂

    • Carly

      Hi Sally! Thanks so much for your kind words, and am so happy to hear you enjoyed the Ira quote. It’s one of my all time faves.

      You should definitely blog if it’s something you’ve been thinking of doing for ages! I’m sure you’d be brill. Enjoy Julie’s eBook, it’s a gem.

      Would be lovely to catch up soon! xx

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