“Comparisons are odious” ~William 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 a dancer, a housewife, a professor, an entrepreneur, and a 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.