-I want to be HER/HIM!
-I want to have/do what HE/SHE does or has done!
-I want my neighbour´s garden because it´s always greener than mine!
How stupid, outdated and tiring is that?
When I thought I´d got rid of it, there it was again: the comparison ghost. It showed up at a very interesting conference with a Portuguese writer. He mentioned the importance of reading the great masters who came before us, especially if you´re a writer or intend to become one. Then a person in the audience asked:
-I understand your point but reading the great masters can be overwhelming and inhibitive of my own creativity. After reading Tolstoy, let´s say, I think to myself “what else can I add to what this master has already done? I could never reach his ankles…why even try to write?!”
The audience laughed in agreement and the writer smiled, thought for a while and stressed that, despite the frustration, an essential part of the job of a writer (or aspirant to writer) is to read, building his/her own literary enciclopedia and drinking from the great masters of the craft (to get an education and to know what has been done so we won´t repeat washed up, already used formulas).
Wait a second…Frustration? Why frustration?
Why should I feel frustrated or have my creative abilities inhibited because I read a fabulous writer´s work? Why can´t I feel inspired to be as unique, authentic and brave as this person once was? Why? We may have TALENT – or the lack of it – separating us and we may not. Who knows? Who cares? If you ever feel the compulsion to write, you WILL WRITE, despite the uncertainty that follows that path.
I moved aroung on my chair as if ants had invaded my pants; slightly out of breath, disturbed by the mess that goes inside so many people´s heads, even professional writers´heads.
Comparing myself to Tolstoy – or any other great, average or bad writer – is in itself an act of ARROGANCE and a waste of time/energy. Why should I even dream about being Tolstoi or writing what he wrote? I´m not Russian; I have no fancy beard and freaky eyes; I haven´t lived when he lived; I´m not HIM – there´s nothing I can or would want to do about it. Is that so hard to grasp?
I can get empowered and stimulated by Great Masters (writers, dancers, actors, painters, etc) but that never includes comparing myself to them and feeding the illusion that I can do what they did or better. Key words: better than…
Why do we have to compare ourselves? Everybody is unique. Quit trying to be Tolstoy, man! That´s just sick.
Do your own thing; be your own self. OWN your self. Digest the past and the treasures it carries and FORGET about it in order to start a fresh day.
Dare to “kill your darlings” in the sense of studying, respecting and honouring the great masters just to put them off your system and WRITE/DANCE/SING what you have in your soul. Learn and forget what you´ve learnt in order to dig into your OWN creative journey. It may lead to Greatness (a highly relative term, anyway) and it may lead to disaster. No matter what, it´ll be better than spending your life STUCK into comparisons and lazy bones adoration of other people´s work.
Get the F….K up and DO IT. YOUR OWN THING, owing much to the past but free from its constraints.
Why is authenticity so hard? Why comparisons chase us, limiting us & stopping genuine creativity from flourishing?
Dig in Tolstoy, for Pete´s sake! Eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Wear a bizarre fake beard for a while, speak Russian to perfect strangers and bathe in the Kremlin fountains, if that gets you going. Put him on an altar and adore his work; elevate him to the skies. Then let him go and JUMP: be and do what you are, right now; no excuses.