Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Comparison Trap

As the year winds down, there is the usual surge of posts and articles online about New Year's resolutions. On one online forum, some writers were posting their goals for 2013. Some of the posts included how many books they hope to publish. Some of the numbers being thrown around seemed realistic (2-4 books in a year), while others seemed over the top (in excess of twenty).

I'm sure these types of discussions occur on other artist forums in some form or another. The posts are often part ambition, part goal setting, part bravado, and part exaggeration.

As a reader, though, it's easy to fall into the trap of comparing one's own works to what others are creating. This exercise usually ends up leaving the reader encouraged or depressed, depending on where they are at in their career. If forum members start throwing around sales figures the effect is only amplified.

Does it really matter, though?

The other day I thought of Romans 14:4 which reads, "Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand." Although most of Romans 14 deals with faith, weakness, and the Law, it uses the illustration of food to get the point across. Perhaps it is a stretch, but I think the concept can be applied to the arts. It's easy to focus on what other artists are dealing with (or even struggling with) and lose sight of the tasks before oneself. For Christian writers, it is even more difficult because so many times the discussion focuses on worldly goals instead of eternal ones. I have to continually remind myself to focus on the task ahead of me and keep my hand to the plow.

So, in light of my recent resolutions post and discussions elsewhere, I've come to realize it's more important to focus on the field where I work rather than what is happening across the road or down the street. It's only then when the best plans seem to come together.

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