Recently at my coaching clinic a writer who’d come along to tackle her lack of self-confidence, explained that every time she wrote a new piece, immediately after the pleasure of creating it dissipated, she began comparing her work to other writers. Judging her work not to be of an acceptable standard, she lost confidence in the piece, and in her ability to write. She simply couldn’t reach the height she believed the bar for writing was set at.
So we asked ourselves the questions ‘Who gets to set the height of the bar?’ and ‘Are we comparing like to like?’
The answer to the first question of who sets the bar yielded lots of great answers but the bottom-line was this: there is no one set standard for the bar. Standards change all the time when it comes to human striving and ability. They change over time. They change as a discipline changes. They even change when a particular standard goes out of fashion.
The second question really got our writer thinking. She realised that she was comparing her first draft to published works which had gone through several drafts, and the fine tooth comb of an editor. She was also comparing her work as an emerging writer to the work of established and hugely experienced writers. Not exactly a fair comparison!
So, as important as it is to strive to be better and to aim high for our work, we need to make sure we’re setting the height for our own challenging but realistic bar. Set our sights on goals that stretch us but are attainable. If comparing our work to others gives us more, not less drive and confidence, go for it. If it stops us in our tracks, then leave aside the comparing and focus instead on producing our very best work.
Anne is a creative coach and author of two poetry collections. For more about Anne, visit her website www.creativecoaching.ie