This Christmas, I received a voice from the past. 1928 to be exact. My friend presented me with a nearly perfect copy of “Home Sewing Made Easy,” by Laura I. Baldt, A.M.
Stay with me now… Although sewing may not be everyone’s cup of tea (like it is mine), wearing clothing for comfort and protection is in everyone’s interest.
So, back to Laura Baldt. The A.M. after her name (Master of Arts degree) credentialed her to become an Assistant Professor of Household Arts in the Teachers College of Columbia University. In 1923, this was all highly uncommon: a woman going to college, earning an advanced degree, holding a professorship position—AND publishing. In addition to this work, she wrote for magazines, contributed to the Department of Agriculture and Federal Board for Vocational Education, and penned textbooks. She wrote her life, and the wisdom in this treasured old book about creative expression is still relevant.
In her “Foreward” (sic), she shares: “Some women have either a native or acquired ability to artistically design and construct clothing; others have the ability to construct, but not to design; still others know little or nothing of designing or construction. Give to the first group of women some cloth, shears, tape measure and pins, and they, through spontaneous inspiration or carefully thought out design, will evolve a charming garment. The other groups – and they form the vast majority – seem not to have this creative genius.” For them, it’s about education, dedication, and determination.
We understand that it is a biological need to cloth oneself, and some would argue that expression is also a biological need. At the very least, written expression begs to be utilized, inspiring others and instilling feelings of fruitfulness in the creator.
If we applied Baldt’s exercise to writers – giving them a laptop, and plenty of paper and ink – some would showcase their native talents by producing an impossible-to-put-down suspense novel. Others of us would need to search for experts, follow their lead, and work diligently to learn the craft: as Baldt suggests in her next line, to find an “excellent way of achievement through the patterns of today.”
While the roster of my sewing teachers has been limited to four (including the fiercest, Experience), the roster of my writing teachers probably features 40 times as many educators. I’ve found that there is no “Home Writing Made Easy” book written just for me; instead, I’ve learned from others formally and informally. Each gives me opportunities to grow as a writer and a consultant to help other writers.
I’d encourage you to stop searching for the Holy Grail of all writing instruction materials and instead build your network of academic pros, literary pros, and colleagues to hone your craft. Be open to their wisdom, “their patterns of today.” What a great message from Baldt in 1928: Whatever your starting point, you can learn from others and produce a quality product with time.
As CEO of Write Advisors, Bonnie Bajorek Daneker helps clients express themselves digitally and in print. Author of The Compassionate Caregiver Series®, Bonnie released her seventh book, CLIMB, in November 2010, with Sandy Hofmann, President of Women in Technology (WIT). Her most recent book, Publishing as a Marketing Strategy, is co-written with five other contributors and was released November 2011. She holds a BA in Journalism from The Ohio State University and an MBA in Strategic Planning and Entrepreneurship from The Goizueta School of Business at Emory University.