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Getting that full Lenten experience

The first rule of workshop is, do not cry at workshop.

I ran that tape in my mind over and over again this afternoon while the instructor for my writing workshop carefully, politely explained why my essay didn’t work.

I knew it didn’t work; that’s why I brought it to workshop. It has beautiful language and interesting ideas and absolutely no forward motion of its own; it was a leaf shuddering in the vortex of a stream. This essay and others with its problems explain why I was so eager to spend the first day of my vacation with a dunce cap perched on my head.

I got what I came for — I got exactly what I wanted: a clear map of where I went wrong. It was useful. It was good. It was probably the best explanation of structure I have ever heard. It was also the best feedback I’ve had on my writing since I left the dear Jesuits at University of San Francisco back in Ought-Six.

So you’ll have to forgive me for being a bit numb. I was a brave little writer, but I sleptwalked out of class and to another event and then to another event, dimly aware of speakers and music and wine and conversation, my skin on fire with the humiliating knowledge that I can profoundly suck in ways I hadn’t even realized.

Someone in class rolled out that over-plucked canard, “You must kill your darlings.” I kept my mouth shut (because the second rule of workshop is, one stays silent while being workshopped), but those who know me are familiar with how ruthless I am in my writing mantra, “Reduce, reuse, recycle.” I don’t have sentimental attachment to the word ingredients in my writing; if it’s good stuff, it will resurface in some other piece, and if it doesn’t, then let it stay moldering in the literary compost pile.

I just wish I could always see where I screw up.

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