Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tip for Tuesday - Your Growth Chart

This past week I took my son to the doctor for a physical. They weighed, measured, proded, and did the whole turn your head and cough thing on him. The verdict: my son is disgustingly healthy. Yay!

They also plotted his height on a growth chart. He's always been tall for his age, but now he's in the 97th percentile. Theoretically, out of every 100 boys his age, he would be taller than 96 of them. The funny thing is, they never find that 100th boy. Unless my child is headed for the Guinness Book of World Records, he will not be the 100th percentile.

Because I'm a writer, I got to thinking of how growth charts mimic writing journeys.

First, wouldn't it be great if you could plot your progress on a growth chart? Plug in your manuscript, and some guru-scanner processes it and spits out a ranking. "You are now at the 64th percentile. Good job!"

Second, this growth chart would measure more than our writing skill. The writing life will stretch you and force you to grow in ways you never imagined. You'll learn to handle rejection, criticism, disappointment, and long waits. You'll also learn how to handle compliments, success, fulfillment, and joy. There are lots of ways to plot your progress. How many words have you written? How many contests have you entered? Have you finaled in a contest? Have you submitted your work to an agent or editor? Have you had a request for a full manuscript? Have you had a novel published? More than one?

Third, there is no 100th percentile for a writer. Just as there is no 100th percentile on a medical growth chart, there is no author who has arrived, who has achieved that mark of never needing to improve anything. Not Stephen King, not Flannery O'Connor, not Dick Francis (though he got awfully close in my estimation!) In the words of the fabulous Angela Hunt, "We are all muddling in the middle." No matter where we are on this journey, where we might fall on the growth chart, we have room to grow. Personally, professionally, spiritually.

So, where do you think you are on the writer growth chart?


  1. Great post, Erica! I love the thought that there is always room to grow. We will never attain it all or learn it all. There's always room for improvement.

    As for kid's heights, my two older sons were always way off the charts in height, but in the 50% in weight! Tall and skinny! They are now 6'7" and 6'6". It's funny, because when they were 6 months, they had to have 18 months clothes so I could snap the crotch, but they were soooo loose they looked like clown outfits! lol

  2. My girls are tall for hobbits.

    As to gauge myself, I always say I'm a perpetual advanced beginner. There is still so much to learn.

  3. Excellent points, Erica. I'm reading a good study right now about how pain stretches us and keeps us humble. Here's hoping there will be some upward motion on my growth chart!

  4. This post hit home with me today. I honestly don't know where I am. I like Hunt's quote. I'm praying, praying on this.

    ~ Wendy

  5. I think I'm currently experience some "growing pains." They're not easy, but at least I know I'm growing. Great post!

  6. What a great post, Erica!

    I like what CJ said about being a perpetual advanced beginner.

  7. Im learning that middle age doesn't mean you dont still grow. I like looking back to my "chart" and see how far Ive come.