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  • I'm reading other people's writing, for a week-long workshop that starts tomorrow. This, for me, means that I cannot make my own writing, lest it become infused, influenced, inflected or infected with what I find in the work of others. The perfect and the gawd-offal, even the straight-up confusing become brain worms that incapacitate the parts of me that I use to tell my own stories.

    Hey this is crazy, I just met you!/Sth, I know that woman./Nuns go by, quiet as lust.

    I have to remind myself, even as I wander into sentences and get lost trying to find the other end, that this writer did the best she could with the tools she had. Don't I? I have to remember that a failure to appreciate and/or easily apply the rules of grammar and punctuation does not make one a bad writer. Careless, maybe; unschooled, possibly; post-modernist, charitably. Certainly, not being as obsessive as I can be about word usage and modifiers does not make another writer a bad human being. Some people didn't love diagramming sentences in fifth grade. Not everybody read the dictionary for sport when they were wee bairn.

    What I know is that it is brave and terrifying to try something original, to be willing to tell that out loud, to allow a relative stranger to look into that particular dark place. And sometimes, being brave means falling, in a manner of speaking. You fall hard, bruising and tearing your metaphorical pants. Throwing words onto the page before the feelings choke, before you forget.

    I stop reading when I find myself exasperated at the misplaced modifier, annoyed by the word flurries that go nowhere, ready to read a clunker aloud to my husband for a laugh. That isn't being participant in a workshop; that is being snarky, being smug about my own talents as a writer. That may be being tired, may be needing to stop reading other people's writing for awhile and either run 6 miles or write something of my own. So I'll remember what I sound like.

    There, I feel better.
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