“Comparisons are odious” – Shakespeare
Nine women sat around a stone fireplace in a cottage on the Rhode Island coast. Ranging in age from late eighties to early forties. Their professional interests as wide ranging as their ages – from Cardy Raper, the scientist and author of the wild book Love, Sex and Mushrooms, to horse whisperer Nicole Birkholtzer to dancer, housewife, professor, entrepreneur and business consultant. I was one of them.
What brought us all together? We are all writers.
This was a salon for writers.
In the weeks before the event I had been too busy to consider that I, a business consultant was about to spend a long weekend with REAL writers. I didn’t have time to get intimidated.
Upon arrival in Providence I was greeted by one of my enthusiastic hosts. She looked like a writer, slim, long hair, no make up. See how I was already comparing. As she introduced herself I learned she had spent her whole career in publishing. In spite of her warm welcome, I could hear the voice of the Triple J (jury, judge and jailer) saying, “what were you thinking coming to a writers’ retreat?”
Yet as the others arrived, I found myself relaxing into that gentle space that women create as we get to know each other. A bowl of steaming soup and a glass of wine later we were ready for our first writing session.
For thirty minutes I wrote, it flowed, I didn’t fret.
Now it was time to read our pieces aloud. Kathleen started.
Her images were grim, haunting and memorable.
As Laura read, her characters came alive, I could see them, feel them. It was like watching a movie.
Cardy’s writing was spare and compelling like an Andrew Wythe drawing.
I longed to skip my turn…. I felt my piece suffered by comparison. It wasn’t as artistic as Kathleen’s, as cinematic as Laura’s, as compelling as Cardy’s. But of course I didn’t skip my turn…
The group received my piece with the same welcome… AS IF I WERE A WRITER!?
Each woman had a voice. Over the weekend I heard the power and consistency of each. And finally I heard the power and consistency of my own. I am indeed a writer. Phew! I’ve said it.
It is human nature to compare. But comparisons lead to good/bad; better/worse. Comparisons can stop you in your tracks. They negate and intimidate. We each have a “voice” and it’s easy to diminish the power of that voice by comparing it instead of realizing it’s just a DIFFERENT VOICE.
Every time you start comparing yourself to others STOP and ask these four questions to bring you back to your own Yippee:
- How does it make you feel to compare?
- Can you really know it’s true that s/he is happier, better, luckier than you?
- How is your voice different from theirs?
- What makes yours special?
Stay on your own page. Hike your own hike. Believe in your own voice, it’s all part of your path to Yippee.
See you next Tuesday. Yippee!