A Handful of Words

Recently, on a freezing afternoon, I was late to a workshop for writing a grant, in an attempt to keep funding my second novel endeavor. Either because I live where parking is usually not a problem, or because I don’t think ahead, I arrived with about a heartbeat to spare, but then couldn’t find parking, and ended up running in my clunky boots and parka a few blocks.

The workshop was held in a dance studio that was hardly heated, and all of crowded around tables in our sweaters and coats and hand-knitted hats. Mainly painters, the other attendees ranged from a young man who seemed to have just rolled out of the sack to elderly folks who asked a lot of good questions. Although I didn’t linger, I knew these were my tenor of people – not all that well-coiffed, intense enough about their passion to seek out sitting for a few cold hours in a shabby end of Burlington.

To get through the first cut, I’ll need to write four paragraphs. I sat there, in my sweater with the unraveling cuffs, and thought, That’s it? Four paragraphs? While the painters asked questions about matting, I started scribbling my answer. Be specific. Be profound. Articulate why literature matters. And, for God’s sake, don’t be afraid of four paragraphs.

Check back in May and see if I’m weeping….

Perfectionism is a particularly evil lure for women, who, I believe, hold themselves to an even higher standard of performance than do men. There are many reasons why women’s voices and visions are not more widely represented today in creative fields. Some of that exclusion is due to regular old misogyny, but it’s also true that—all too often—women are the ones holding themselves back from participating in the first place.

– Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic


Hazen Union, Hardwick, Vermont

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