i paint i write

Live boldly, laugh and make art

Comparison is the death of joy


Comparison is the death of joy

Right now at this very minute, it is 6:11 in the morning. I have been sitting in my chair in front of my computer since 4:00 o’clock trying to tell you why comparing is bad.

And why haven’t I told you yet? Because I am comparing my blog to all the other writers who took the 31 day challenge, at thenester.com.

Oh, that person actually has art lessons every day, I don’t. My challenge is not as good. Oh dear, what  have I done. I told you we would make art this month. And yes we will, but I won’t have art lessons every day. Some days we will just talk about art,  some days we will draw, and some days I will tell you stories. I want to quit. Please, please, please,  can I just write about my dirty dishes for the rest of the month?”

 I didn’t write why you shouldn’t compare because I was comparing. Silly really, the very thing I wanted to tell you not to do, I was doing myself.

Comparison is the death of joy.
― Mark Twain

 Comparing is the death of joy. Mark Twain really did know what he was talking about. If I think someone does something better than me, the only joy I have is the Joy soap I wash my dishes with.

In 1979 I took a drawing class  in the foundation year at The Alberta College of Art. The teacher told us to draw a glass of water. The drawing was supposed to look realistic. My drawing looked like a glass with brown mud in it. My friend, Laura Fernandez, drew a glass of water so realistic I drank from it. The teacher gave Laura an A. He gave me a C for my drawing.

Every time I tried to draw, “I thought. I can’t draw like Laura. My art is no good. Only realistic art is valuable.” I believed The Lie.

The teacher wouldn’t recommend me for the Graphic Design Program. I wanted to study Graphic Design, but applied for the Photography program instead. Four years later I graduated and moved to Japan.

The Truth is:

I am not supposed to draw like Laura. I am supposed to draw like me. 

And you?

You are supposed to draw like you. Somewhere deep inside of you is a picture that only you can draw. No one else has your experience or your background. When you draw, your art will be truly yours.

Don’t draw like Billy or Mary of Fred or Harry or Tom or Gretchen or Brittany or Sally. Draw like you. [click here to tweet, tweet tweet.]

Please don’t compare. Keep  joy in your art and in your kitchen sink.

Have you ever compared your art to someone else and felt bad?

Please tell me in the comments. I would love to chat.


Do you want to know something really funny? I just did a google search for articles on comparing. And I found an interesting article I forgot I had written, called, Why You shouldn’t compare yourself to other people. 


About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

Feature Box

Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • Arlene McGinness

    My dad is also an artist and I sometimes struggle not to compare his work to mine. I still desperately want him to love my work, so when he doesn’t I find myself questioning what I’ve done. I just finished working on a concept for a couple of weeks then doing the painting, and after I’d finished I absolutely loved it; I felt it might be the best piece I’d ever done. I emailed it to my dad and he didn’t ‘get it’; I am so disappointed and now I’m wondering if I developed the concept too far away from the idea and no one else will understand it but me! It’s tough being creative sometimes…

  • Melissa Wheeler

    Ok so i made a owl just for fun last night on Paint on my computer. I call it Proud Owl because I made an attempt to draw something and the Owl thinks ehh not bad!

  • Bravo! Your message today is one I really needed. The brown stuff in your glass could have been 10 year old brandy. What did the teacher know? Teachers make or break kids more than they know. I enjoy your 31 days.

  • Shari

    As I looked over the 1,500 choices of 31 Day posts I jotted down the ones in each category that looked interesting to me. I had way more than I could realistically read every day, so I opened each one up and read what they had to offer. I have narrowed my list down to less than ten. You are included in this list. Your postings really spoke to me. I wasn’t looking for 31 ways to use burlap. You are speaking to the soul of the artist in each of us. And for many of those artists they have allowed comparison to hold them back from expressing what they need to bring to this world. Please trust your instincts as you guide us through this journey. I look forward to the ride!

    • Good Morning Shari,
      Thank you for encouraging me to follow my instincts.
      Your words are like a cool glass of water in the middle of a hot day in the Sahara desert.
      Now to make breakfast and write my next story. “There are no rules in art.”

  • I stopped blogging for a while because of comparisons. But I started back because I knew something I said might help one person. I have a blog post in mind that will cover just this topic.

    I really love your glass of mud. Perhaps a mud creature needs it.

  • Melissa Wheeler

    I am creative I suppose more of a doodler but I grew up with two artists in my family my mom and my brother. They would sit down with a scetch pad and draw anything they stared at. A tree would look like an actual tree as though i could touch it and leaves would fall. Mine sort of looked like a line with sticks and some squiggle marks for leaves. I think my comparison of art and what is called art started there. Then when I grew up I would go to stores and look at peoples fantastic displays or craftsmanship stitching ect. and think wish I could do that. I tried but it never came out the quite the same.But when you said, The Truth is:
    I am not supposed to draw like Laura. I am supposed to draw like me. I never really thought about it like that and claimed something like that as MINE! ok its not perfect but its MINE! Comparison stifles the imagination’s ability to think for itself.

    • Yes, Melissa. It is YOURS. You get to draw like Melissa. Thank you for sharing your story. I can imagine your tree, and it is a tree. It is your tree.

  • Teri XYZ

    Your blog is grand. Your art is smashing. And I am loving being a new follower!!

    • Thank you Teri. Thank you very much. Thank you for following!

  • La McCoy

    Good work

  • Robn Patrick

    I think I compare myself to others about as often as I breathe. sigh.
    And, I use Dawn. And, the reason I use Dawn is because when we lived at Fort Ord we had terrible plumbing issues. The plummer told us to use Dawn to help out plumbing. Of course that was over 20 years ago and I don’t know if it even applies today! So . . . I guess I was comparing my dish detergents too!

    • Hello Robin,
      Oh dear, you breathe all the time, so that is a lot of comparing. And you are wonderful as you are.
      I use Joy to remind me to pray for my friend Joy and her son Andrew. If her name was Dawn, I would have bought Dawn dish soap.
      I pray that today you will smile and say, “Thank you God for making me just as I am.”
      P.S. He did a great job.

  • Teresa Richardson

    I had an art teacher in grade school who made fun of me for an art project she had assigned. For a long time, I never tried hard to be good at any art.
    When I first started doing art journaling and ATCs, I would compare my work to another person’s, but I quit doing that. Their art is NOT my art. That is my mantra now

    • Bravo Teresa! Yes! Their art is NOT your art.
      I had a teacher in grade 8 who read my poem in front of class. It was a serious rhyming poem about romance and death. She read it and laughed at how funny it was.
      Teachers can bless with their words and they can destroy.
      Teresa, what is an ATC?

      • Teresa Richardson

        An ATC is an Artist Trading Card. They are 2.5 x 3.5 inches and you make them to trade with others. They are like a miniature journal page. You can color, paint, collage, embellish as much as you like

      • jesspetersonart

        Pamela, that’s pretty sad your teacher reacted to your poem that way, in front of the class… She was in the wrong job. I don’t get why some teachers think it’s okay to do that.

  • Pingback: Dear World, we are artists and we will make art()

  • Yes, when I read all the other “Letter to the World” stories I wanted to take a sledge hammer to my laptop (writing is the only art I presently do.) But that was a silly notion.

    • Yes, Kathleen, a silly notion. If you hit your laptop with a sledgehammer you would have to clean up the mess, and you might get hit by flying debris. And then how would you answer your e-mail or write all of those delightful stories that I wait patiently for every day?

  • When I compare myself to others, I find myself lacking, and feel constrained to make up the difference in some way — usually it’s impossible. If I just forget the self-conscious comparisons, I free myself to be me. I like being free a lot better.

    • Hello John,
      You can be John Fisher. You don’t have to be anyone else. And when you draw, you will draw like John Fisher. Because that is who you are. I spent years and years comparing, and now I want to stop. The only person we can be is ourselves.