Learning curve

On my drive down to Ottawa last Friday I stopped in at the library in Blind River to give them a poster for the upcoming Open Mike at Stories in the North. They were having a book sale. I swear there is a little gremlin who goes around scheduling these things to coincide with my schedule, even when my schedule is set a mere two days before.

What do you mean, “Did you buy anything?” Duh! I am a bookaholic. Of course I bought something. And what I got was a copy of Margaret Atwood’s book In Other Worlds, a collection of essays on science fiction/fantasy/speculative fiction. I started to read it a few days ago. Then I thought, “Why does this title sound familiar?” I looked up the shortlist for the Louise de Kiriline Lawrence Award.


The competition. Shepherd in Residence is facing off against In Other Worlds.

The good news is, I’m really quite enjoying the book. I expected to, because I’d also enjoyed Negotiating with the Dead, Atwood’s book on writing. Reading this book has brought home to me how much science fiction I’ve actually read, because Atwood references many stories that are familiar to me. It’s always nice to have one’s literacy confirmed, right?

The bad news? Well, I suppose there’s no bad news. Losing to Margaret Atwood is perfectly respectable. Winning over Margaret Atwood is – well, not perfectly unthinkable, but a longish shot anyway. And definitely respectable, should one manage it.

I recently made a decision to be much more selective in my reading-about-writing. I used to know a woman in one of the spinners’ guilds I belonged to who spent a lot of time going to conferences, not so much spinning. You could spend hours and days reading about writing, how to be a better writer, a more efficient writer, a happier or more productive or better-paid writer, or just a different kind of writer. I often come away from these articles feeling inadequate, as though I’m not the writer I could be.

I’m still learning this writing thing, but I’ve decided I will learn as I learned pottery and printmaking. Some instruction, lots of practice and experimentation and discovery and practice. Read for inspiration. Follow my heart and my instincts.

What I discovered when I did pottery was that if I really enjoyed making something – whistles, buttons, fish-shaped tableware – it did well sales-wise. Often I could tell when something was going to do well because my initial response to the first pieces I made would be “This is a silly idea!”

My own instincts and practice have served me well in art all my life. I don’t see any reason why writing would be any different. In an effort to put my money where my mouth is, I’m rounding up all the writing magazines I have and passing them on to my friends in the craft.

It’s not that I have no more to learn. I have lots. But I’m not doing too badly, because I wrote Shepherd in Residence without having read a single book on writing memoir.

And I got shortlisted – have I told you this already? – with Margaret Atwood. Not too shabby.

This entry was posted in Doing the Work, Fumbling towards competence and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Learning curve

  1. Pingback: A literary week… | Elizabeth Creith's Scriptorium

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