Monday, January 27, 2014

Comparisons

Comparisons can be a good thing or a bad thing. It all depends on who we are comparing ourselves to and what the purpose is for making comparisons. For example on Christmas morning my husband and I both took photos around sunrise at a nearby beach. I thought mine looked pretty good.


I was pleased with it, until... until I looked at his which looked just spectacular. I wanted to show you his stunning photo but for some reason the blog doesn't want to take it, without you having to stand on your head to look at it.. So here is a different one instead, not as effective but still pretty sky.  


Of course there are several explainable reasons for the difference. Firstly mine was just taken on my inexpensive mobile phone camera, while his was taken on a proper camera. You’d expect given better equipment, the results would be better. Also I’m really just a hack when it comes to photos. I snap them for my own amusement and have been known to have thumb in shot or horizons that aren’t straight. He is much more accomplished.

We can do it in our writing too. We can compare ourselves with other writers and think, ‘Oh I’m not doing very well. They’ve got heaps of books out. I’ve only got one or two.’  Years ago when I made a comment along that I had only published one book, my then teenage daughter replied, 'and that’s more than some people will ever have. ' That’s what I call a smart daughter.  She made me stop and re-evaluate the situation.

So I may not have written a row of best sellers but I have had several books of different types published. What’s more people have read them, enjoyed them and responded to them.  Only this week someone came across one of my poems and contacted me about it. After I responded she has since bought Kaleidoscope my book of poetry.

Of course I might just as easily compare myself to someone else I heard talking the other day. She’s been working on a manuscript for years but still hasn't even got half way, isn’t sure she wants to write the rest or of she will ever finish it.

It’s easy to do in church too, to compare ourselves with others. A friend of mine often says, ‘I could never stand up the front and lead the singing like you do.’ I can because God has called me to it and it is easy to do something I love doing. I love worshiping God in song and encouraging other s to do the same. I also love being on the roster for bible reading. But to do some of the other jobs in the church like welcoming - I would run a mile or should that be two kilometres? The same with jobs that require technical expertise like sound or projector. I am not the person to ask. Fortunately anyone who knows me knows better than to ask. If there is a wrong button to press you can be sure I will find it.

That’s what Paul was on about in his letter to the Corinthians about working together. Not expecting one person to have all the gifts but to work together. Not comparing ourselves with others but accepting that we are each different and have different gifts.

Coming back to writing though for just a moment, comparisons are not always bad. They can be good when we read the work of an author and then analyse why it works or why it doesn’t. Then it is a useful comparison, because there is a point to it. It’s not that you’re trying to write like that person but more that we need to keep learning from other writers as well as our own writing, to know what works and what doesn’t.  Have you read anything recently that has made you re-evaluate the way you craft a story, show a scene, write dialogue, explain a bible passage or anything else you found helpful? It would be great if you could share it here so we can all benefit.

9 comments:

  1. Thanks for that Dale. It's so easy to make those comparisons and feel we don't measure up, but we each have our own calling and giftings and it's what we do with those that matter. I like the examples you gave of good comparisons. I think it can also be useful to compare our current writing with earlier examples and see the improvements or changes in direction as God has helped us develop our craft. One of the best compliments my husband has ever paid me was that he thought I write differently now than a few years ago. When I asked him what he meant, he said it was more polished. I might not have written a blockbuster, but I'm getting better and that's a comparison I'm happy to make. Thanks for your post Dale. It's a good reminder.

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  2. Yes, Dale I've read a few secular books recently where I found head-hopping and mixed POVs. I asked myself how did they get away with it? They were well known authors so maybe their publishers accepted them on their past best selling results. However that makes me want to strive more for excellence.

    As for comparing my own earlier unpublished manuscripts, er...I cringe. So there's no doubt we do learn from comparing, as long as it doesn't lead to envy or disillusionment.

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  3. Great post Dale. It's so true that comparisons can cause both discouragement and envy (when we see how well someone else is doing) or an inflated sense of inferiority (when see how much better we are doing than others) but I like your point that comparisons can also help us learn. Great to have the reminder that we each have our own calling - and also that we are often on different points of the journey.

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  4. Hi Dale,
    Thanks for this post. It's good to be reminded of this frequently. When we make these comparison judgments about ourselves, it's easy then, to make distorted guesses that others may be thinking the same about us, when they really aren't. Too many pitfalls in comparisons by far. When we think about it, none of us want to be either depressed or proud anyway, so giving it up is best, when done for the wrong motives.
    I think your sunset beach photos look excellent too, so I can only imagine what your husband's must have looked like :)

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  5. Thanks Dale - for that excellent post. A great reminder indeed. We are all called to be unique after all - so certain comparisons are definitely a 'No no' while other comparisons can probably spur us on. I've been reading a book on Christian leadership where many writers suggest we look at other leaders and emulate their good behaviours - there's where a comparison could be a good thing.

    I agree with Paula that your sunset pic was beautiful. I'm just like you by the way - take pictures on my little digital camera - just a point and shoot effort. I'm always grateful that even an amateur like myself can capture some of the beauty in His world.

    Thanks for the reminder today - I will certainly take it to heart.

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  6. Thanks Nola, Rita, Jeanette, Paula and Anusha for reading. Glad you liked my sunrise pics. I read a book recently by a very well known secular author who has had lots of books published and like Rita said, wondered how they got away with obvious repetitions and things that should have been picked up in editing if not by the author. It made me look at my ms to make sure I didn't do the same. Agree with the point about looking at early mss and seeing improvement in our writing over time. Thanks ladies for taking the time to read and comment.

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  7. Thanks, Dale, A good reminder to be careful about all the comparisons we make about our writing and life in general. That has been a big downfall of mine in the past but I hope I've improved on just being me and using the unique gifts God has given me to bless others, either through my writing or otherwise. God bless!

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  8. Thought provoking... thanks, Dale. It's quite sad that we usually compare ourselves to others who are 'better' in our eyes - and then feel bad. The reality is that God has made us 'just right'. All we need is courage to face the big obstacles and patience to overcome the smaller ones, and things will turn out just as God intended :)

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  9. Thanks Jo-Anne and Margaret for your comments. I think it is a downfall for a number of us Jo-Anne. As you said we just need to learn to be ourselves and be happy with that, knowing as Margaret said God has made us' just right.'

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