Thursday, November 12, 2009


I spent the last week in the company of some of my favorite people - writers and quilters. The first half was spent in Seattle at the Donald Maass class, The Fire in Fiction. Lucky me, I went straight from there to Asilomar and quilt retreat with ten wonderful folks. Plenty of fun, inspiration and work.

Donald Maass had invited author Nancy Pickard to join him on the first day of class. Maass dissected her book, the Virgin of Small Plains and Nancy talked about her writing methods. She also talked about the career of a writer, something of great interest to me. She has written a nonfiction book called The 7 Steps on a Writer's Path. In it, she and her co author, Lynn Lott, describe the stages a writer will go through. I found it all quite useful, but one thing Nancy said struck me.

She talked about how as a writer (or quilter or artist of any kind), you will always be on a spectrum. You're not as good as you will be at your craft, not as bad as you were when you started out. The key is to remember that and not fall into the trap of comparing yourself with others who have more experience than you do.

This is what causes paralysis. Comparing your writing to John Steinbeck or your quilting ability to Paula Nadelstern when you're a novice will not inspire you, it'll keep you from moving forward. Comparisons to others will stunt your growth.

At the quilt retreat, I was with quilters of all range of experience. A couple of us have been quilting for more than 25 years, but others have started more recently. Some come with a passel of sewing experience, some started with a baby quilt. Some are confident in their abilities, others not so much. But we work together, we share ideas and tips and we all learn from one another. The experience is all the more richer for having a varied group.

Nancy reminded me that I'm not the same writer I was a few years ago, and with conscious effort, continual learning and interest, I can and will get better.


Betty Hechtman said...

I envy your trip to Asilomar. Just breathing the air there makes me feel good.

Interesting idea about the spectrum. I keep thinking I'm a newbie, but I guess working on a fifth book means I'm somewhat experienced.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post. I love that you got to be the Nancy Pickard of the quilters.

If our characters have a growth arc, why shouldn't we? :)

Terri Thayer said...

I should tell our readers that I won't be posting next week. I'm continuing my retreating with a writer's group.

Instead, Becky Levine, author of the The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide, will be here taking part in our Writers Workshop Week. So start thinking of your best critique group questions.

Camille Minichino said...

I like the parallel with the growth of our characters, Becky.

I give classes in all aspects of writing, but I also TAKE classes (I'm taking a workshop with Janis Cooke Newman tomorrow, for example) -- so I won't keep repeating the little I know!

I'm looking forward to your participation in our Writers Workshop next week.!

signlady217 said...

I've heard this same idea expressed over and over at sign language conferences. We are all newbies in some areas and experienced (a little or a lot) in others. Instead of comparing ourselves to each other and becoming depressed about it, we should be striving to be the best WE can be and always keep learning. Good to be reminded of that.